UND teaming with private-sector developer on possible vaccine for devastating viral disease


Amy Halvorson

Document Type


Publication Date



UND teaming with private-sector developer on possible vaccine for devastating viral disease

Research by the University of North Dakota and Avianax, a private-sector company located in Grand Forks, might be just what the world needs to level the battlefield in the war against Ebola, as well as end the "wild-goose chase" for a cure.

UND and Avianax have allied themselves to go to war against the Ebola virus, and their weapon of choice — bird antibodies — more specifically, goose antibodies.

"We have very positive results with goose antibodies generated against viruses, similar to Ebola, that cause similar viral hemorrhagic fevers, including a number of the hantaviruses like the Andes and Sin Nombre viruses," said David Bradley, an immunology professor at the School of Medicine & Health Sciences and executive director for the Center of Research Excellence for Avian Therapeutics for Infectious Diseases. "Therefore, we have reason to be optimistic that the Ebola specific goose antibodies that we are generating will be successful for treating Ebola infections."

The United States Department of Defense (DOD), along with several other federal agencies, is on the hunt for other Ebola therapy and vaccine candidates, since the supply of "ZMapp" (a tobacco plant-generated antibody that was used to treat seven Ebola patients) was exhausted and the timeline for procuring more is unknown, as well as if it will actually enhance the survival of the patients.

As a part of this hunt, researchers from UND and Avianax were asked by the DOD to attend a meeting in Washington D.C., to discuss the possibility of using their research on goose antibodies to combat the Ebola virus.

"ZMapp is a cocktail of three monoclonal antibodies, and thus targets only three sites on the Ebola virus, while the goose antibody product, is polyclonal, meaning it would target many more sites," said Bradley.

Thus, he said, making it likely to be more efficient at neutralizing the Ebola virus and fighting potential mutations of the virus.

Bradley continued, "It isn't a contest against ZMapp, but rather an effort to find the best therapeutic options to provide the best possible outcomes for Ebola infected patients."

Whether or not this research will be used by the DOD is still unknown, as the DOD likely won't make a decision on funding the development of this research until after the first of the year.

That however isn't stopping UND and Avianax from preparing for battle.

"We have already started the process of producing Ebola-specific goose antibodies, generated by the immunization of the geese with either the nucleic code (DNA) for specific exposed glycoproteins on the Ebola virus, or the glycoproteins themselves." Bradley continued, "Essentially, the goose antibodies would wrap up the virus and allow for its clearance without infected new cells or tissues, or replicating."

Bradley stressed that it is important to note that there is no live or dead Ebola virus involved with the antibody production.

Their research uses the DNA of Ebola, not the actual virus. How it works is the virus DNA is injected into a goose, then the goose produces antibodies against the virus, and deposits these in the yolk of its eggs.

Once the antibodies have been produced and purified, they will continue undergoing testing at other sites.

"We expect those results to be available before the first of the year, and we will know at that point if the Ebola-specific goose antibodies are potential candidates for a human therapeutic or not."

The idea to use goose antibodies derived from research done for West Nile virus. Since then, it has been found to work very well to fight viruses. For example, goose antibodies can be administered orally rather than through an injection.

Amy Halvorson University & Public Affairs student writer

This document is currently not available here.