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Southern Research Institute Develops Novel Screening Capabilities For Discovery of Therapeutics to Address Highly Pathogenic Agents

April 22, 2014

High-throughput Screening Capability Under BSL-4 Containment Will Change the Paradigm for Identification of Therapeutic Candidates Against Pathogens Including Ebola, Marburg Nipah and Lassa Viruses

Birmingham, Ala. – Researchers from Southern Research Institute and their colleagues at Galveston National Laboratory announced today that they have jointly developed a semi-automated high-throughput screening (HTS) platform that is capable of testing 10,000 compounds per day within biosafety level 4 (BSL-4) biocontainment conditions.

The research, from the laboratory of James W. Noah, Ph.D., in conjunction with Lynn Rasmussen, M.S., both of Southern Research Institute, and colleagues including Bersabeh Tigabu, DVM, Ph.D. of the Galveston National Laboratory (GNL) at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Texas, was published in a paper titled, “A BSL-4 High-Throughput Screen Identifies Sulfonamide Inhibitors of Nipah Virus.” The paper appears in the April 2014 edition of the journal ASSAY and Drug Development Technologies (ADDT).

Nipah Virus is a biosafety level 4 pathogen that causes severe respiratory illness and encephalitis in humans. Outbreaks have occurred frequently over the past decade in Bangladesh and India with fatality rates over 65%. Given the lack of effective therapeutics and vaccines, the virus is considered a significant public health concern as well as a serious bioterrorism threat, and is listed as a category C priority pathogen by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

“We are pleased to have our work, and that of our colleagues at GNL recognized by ADDT. To our knowledge, this is the first instance in which an HTS platform was implemented in a BSL-4 environment,” said Dr. Noah. “Building on our earlier experience, we believe this platform may contribute to the successful identification of compounds with antiviral activity as the first step in the development of therapeutics against these highly pathogenic agents.”

About Southern Research Institute

Southern Research Institute is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) scientific research organization founded in 1941 that conducts preclinical drug discovery and development, advanced engineering research in materials, systems development, and environment and energy research. Approximately 500 scientific and engineering team members support clients and partners in the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, defense, aerospace, environmental and energy industries. Southern Research is headquartered in Birmingham, AL, with additional laboratories and offices in Wilsonville and Huntsville, AL, Frederick, MD, Durham, NC, Houston, TX, and Cartersville, GA. For more information visit:

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