Bradley receives Research ND Bio grant to study treatment of influenza

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News Article

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School of Medicine & Health Sciences


GRAND FORKS, N.D.—David Bradley, PhD, an immunologist and executive director of the Center of Research Excellence for Avian Therapeutics for Infectious Diseases at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences, received a peer-reviewed Research ND Bio grant of $1 million from the North Dakota Department of Commerce to pursue research on an avian-derived therapy for influenza A that could help human patients as well as poultry farmers and dog owners to effectively combat the flu. Avianax LLC is matching the Research ND Bio grant with $1 million that will also be dedicated to this research.

The influenza A virus causes the flu, a contagious respiratory infection that involves muscle aches and soreness, headache, and fever. Despite an aggressive immunization program in the United States, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases reports that seasonal influenza each year kills more than 36,000 people and hospitalizes 200,000 more. Among humans, the hardest hit populations are the elderly and the very young. In addition to death directly related to flu infections, secondary bacterial infections also cause significant mortality.

Influenza A has 27 subtypes. Humans are susceptible to several subtypes; two subtypes, H1N1 (Swine flu) and H3N2, are currently circulating in the general population. Birds are susceptible to the majority of the possible subtypes, and dogs are susceptible to two known subtypes.

An effective prevention or treatment is not currently available for poultry, although a vaccine is being developed. The Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota reported that 50 million birds died of avian influenza, and Iowa alone reported a $1.2 billion economic loss related to avian influenza outbreaks in 2015. Before 2015, the United States had only experienced a low-pathogenicity type of canine influenza, and there is an effective vaccine available for this subtype for dogs. In 2015, however, a dog flu outbreak affected 13 Midwestern states with more than 10,000 dogs becoming ill and several dying from the influenza infection. The influenza virus responsible for this outbreak was a high-pathogenicity strain of canine influenza similar to the deadly subtype present in Asia since 2007.

The public-private partnership between the University of North Dakota and Avianax has demonstrated the ability to rapidly generate antibodies for several viruses by using goose eggs. The partnership has ongoing research developing antibodies for human and animal diseases, such as West Nile, avian flu, and parvovirus.

“We have demonstrated the therapeutic potential of goose-derived antibodies for several viruses known to be pathogenic in humans, birds and other mammals, including dogs,” Bradley said. “One of these antibodies, parvoOne, is specific for fighting canine parvovirus type 2. We are currently obtaining a United States Department of Agriculture conditional license for the treatment of CPV2 infections in dogs.”

Research ND Bio grants are a part of the Research ND Program, whose goal is to spur partnerships between North Dakota’s research universities—North Dakota State University and the University of North Dakota—and private partners. Research ND Bio grants are focused on research to develop and commercialize vaccines and antibodies to prevent, treat, or cure cancer, virally infectious disease, or other pathogens, including bacteria, mycobacteria, fungi, and parasites.

In May of this year, Bradley received a Research ND Bio grant of $844,632 to pursue research on an avian-derived therapy for porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) virus, a highly infectious virus that caused many outbreaks and a significant number of deaths of newborn pigs in 2014. In 2014, he received a Research ND Bio grant of $2 million to assist in the research, development, and commercialization of a novel avian-derived therapeutic for parvovirus infection in puppies and dogs that led to the development of the parvoOne antibody.