This group is led by Dr. Robert Lanford, who has 24 years of experience working with nonhuman primates, all at Texas Biomed. This group has an extensive portfolio in research on AIDS, hepatitis, tuberculosis, emerging viral and microbial diseases and biodefense threats, vaccine development, and immunology. Texas Biomed is the only institution in the country that has both a National Primate Research Center and a Biocontainment Level 4 laboratory. With the addition of newly developed ABSL3 facilities we are now conducting primate research at Animal Biocontainment Level 3 and 4. The combination of primate expertise with expertise in maximum biocontainment poises the SNPRC to play a critical role in studies of select agents and emerging pathogens.
One of the major areas of research at the SNPRC is the study of infectious diseases and host-pathogen interactions, including replication, immune response and pathogenesis. The members of the Department of Virology and Immunology at Texas Biomed and the Infectious Diseases and Biodefense group of the SNPRC have a strong tradition in research on important human pathogens, on viruses of nonhuman primates, and on the use of nonhuman primates as animal models of human diseases, especially within the fields of AIDS and hepatitis. Two of the NIH Hepatitis C Virus Cooperative Centers have research programs at SNPRC. In addition, because the group has concentrated its efforts on diseases that cause a high morbidity and mortality, we have amassed considerable expertise associated with high level biocontainment facilities and practices. This includes a considerable amount of research performed in high containment ABSL-3 and ABSL-4 laboratories. Two components of the Region VI Center of Excellence in Biodefense and Emerging Infections are directed by members of the Department of Virology and Immunology including the BSL-4 Core Laboratory (Dr. Patterson, Director) and the Nonhuman Primate Core (Dr. Lanford, Director; Dr. Carrion, Associate Director).
Current research programs are dedicated to the understanding of basic molecular, immunological and pathogenic aspects of human and animal viruses, as well as the agents of specific bacterial diseases, such as anthrax, tularemia, tuberculosis, and brucellosis. The Department of Virology and Immunology at Texas Biomed has 10 faculty members working on a broad range of viral diseases including retroviruses (HIV/SIV), hepatitis viruses (HBV, HCV, GBV-B), arenaviruses (lassa fever virus), filoviruses (Ebola and Marburgh viruses), Dengue virus, and herpes viruses. For more information on infectious disease programs in the Department of Virology and Immunology see the Department homepage [link].
SNPRC Core Components in Infectious Diseases and Biodefense
NIH-funded investigators have ready access to animal resources and scientific infrastructure at SNPRC. Opportunities exist for external investigators to design and supervise their own studies with minimal input from SNPRC scientists. However, many external investigators take advantage of strong research experience and expertise at SNPRC to assist in the design and execution of projects including expertise in immunological assays in non-human primates, retroviral diagnostic assays, and hepatitis research in chimpanzees. SNPRC funds three core components to assist outside investigators in these research areas.
Immunology Core Laboratory
Component Leader: Dr Luis Giavedoni
The Immunology Core Laboratory provides assays based in flow cytometry for the characterization of blood cell subsets and the determination of cell mediated activity (T-cell proliferation, cytotoxic and natural killer cell activity) in nonhuman primate species. The core also provides methodologies for the simultaneous determination of multiple cytokines and chemokines in biological fluids derived from nonhuman primate. The core has developed a Luminex-based platform for the identification of 32 cytokines in fluids from Old World monkeys and is developing new reagents for the marmoset. The core provides a service for genotyping selected MHC class I alleles in Indian rhesus macaques. Scientists from around the country continuously ship NHP samples to this laboratory for cytokine testing. For additional details click here.
Chimpanzee Research and Exposure Database
Component Leader: Dr. Robert E. Lanford
This component screens the chimpanzee colony each year for multiple markers of HBV, HCV, and HIV infection. The results along with the experimental histories of all the animals are used to maintain a computerized database for managing the chimpanzee colony. The animals are monitored to determine the long term outcome of persistent infection with these agents in chimpanzees. The component also identifies the most appropriate animals for new studies involving investigators from numerous institutes. As the size of this colony decreases and the multiple exposure history of the animals becomes more complex, this resource becomes increasingly essential for identification of theses animals for vaccine trials. For more information on the hepatitis program at SNPRC, click here.