IITRI now has expanded animal biosafety level 3 (ABSL-3) capacity to conduct pathogen challenge studies for vaccines or therapeutics in non-human primates (NHPs). Our ABSL-3 laboratories include head-only aerosol infection by inhalation exposure and plethysmography capabilities for cynomolgus or rhesus monkeys, African green monkeys, and marmosets.

Before new vaccine or antiviral drug candidates can be approved for use in humans, efficacy studies in animals are required. Non-human primates are often particularly well suited for these preclinical efficacy studies due to their evolutionary proximity and physiological similarity to humans, making these studies more translatable to human clinical disease. Because of similarities in their immune systems to humans, NHPs are used to assess the immune response elicited by vaccine before moving to human trials. Or, the pathogen may only infect primates in addition to humans, so preclinical evaluation of new vaccines against this pathogen needs to be tested in NHPs.

The ability to mimic an aerosol infection route in a controlled, laboratory setting is essential for the development of prophylactic or therapeutic treatments for highly pathogenic infectious agents. Infection by inhalation of aerosolized pathogens may dramatically increase the lethality of some agents, creating a risk for their use in bioterrorism attacks, such as for Francisella tularensis (causing tularemia) or Yersenia pestis (pneumonic plague). Or, aerosol infection is the primary mode of transmission in humans, for example Mycobacterium tuberculosis or MersCoV.

IITRI’s bioaerosol generation and infection capability, along with increased capacity in BSL-3/ABSL-3 for NHP studies will be used to conduct aerosol infection challenge studies for these highly infectious agents, to aid in the development of treatments and vaccines to protect against bioterrorism acts and prevent the spread of these potentially lethal diseases.