February 03, 2019

Research Roundup: DNA from single mosquito sequenced, Pandemic Response Box to boost research, and experimental Ebola treatment proves safe in adults

Ansley Kahn
Senior Program Assistant
PATH/Patrick McKern

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In what is being heralded as an “enormous breakthrough” in the fight against malaria, scientists for the first time have successfully sequenced DNA from a single mosquito. Previous DNA models have been comprised of a patchwork of dozens of mosquitoes due to the difficulty of sequencing an insect that small in size. This advancement will enable scientists to create a full, high-quality picture of a mosquito’s genetic sequence—enabling researchers to study how mosquitoes spread disease, adapt to insecticides, and reproduce. This could help inform approaches to vector and malaria control.

The Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative and Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) launched the Pandemic Response Box, which offers researchers free access to 400 diverse compounds to be used for screening against infectious and neglected diseases to accelerate development of new treatments for life-threatening pandemic diseases. In return for free access to these compounds, researchers are expected to publish their findings in an open access journal two years following data generation—encouraging transparency and collaboration in drug development research. Timothy Wells, Chief Scientific Officer at MMV noted, “The hope is that these efforts will contribute to the discovery and development of next generation therapies to manage a future pandemic as well as existing threats such as the Zika virus and Ebola.”

An experimental Ebola treatment, mAb114, passed an early stage human clinical trial, according to a study in The Lancet. Developed by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Vaccine Research Center, mAb114 prevents Ebola from infecting human cells by “tying itself to the core receptor binding domain of its surface protein.” The experimental vaccine is currently being offered to Ebola patients in the Democratic Republic of Congo as part of a phase 2/3 clinical trial, with an additional phase 1 trial planned to take place in Africa. The vaccine has the potential to make combating Ebola outbreaks quicker and easier as it is not restricted to freezer storage—reducing the logistical burden of transport.