Several New World arenavirus (NWA) cause hemorrhagic fever (HF) diseases in humans that are characterized by high morbidity and mortality. Moreover, because of their stability, high morbidity and potential for aerosol transmission, HF-causing NWA represent credible biodefense threats.Concerns posed by human pathogenic NWA are aggravated by the lack of FDA-licensed vaccines and current anti-arenaviral therapy being limited to the off-label use of ribavirin that is only partially effective. The significance of HF-causing NWA in human health and biodefense readiness, together with the limited existing armamentarium to combat them, underscore the importance of developing effective countermeasures to combat NWA infections of humans. For several viruses broadly neutralizing antibodies (BNAb) have been isolated from individuals who recovered from infection and shown to bind to highly conserve epitopes within viral surface glycoproteins (GP) and capable of protecting against viruses with high degree of antigenic variability. Therefore, BNAb provide a powerful tool for antiviral immunotherapy. Moreover, information regarding the interaction of BNAb with their highly conserved epitopes and their mechanisms of neutralization can facilitate the design of novel universal vaccines and the discovery of broad-spectrum antiviral drugs. In this exploratory R21 application we propose first to generate cross-reactive variable (V) region humanized monoclonal antibodies (hVMAbs) against NWA surface GPs using sequential plasmid DNA immunization of VelocImmune mice with GPs from the genetically distantly related NWA (Aim 1). We will characterize these hVMAbs regarding their breadth of reactivity against GPs of representative members from all three NWA clades (Aim 2), including all known HF-causing NWA. We will select hVMAbs exhibiting broad NWA cross-reactivity to identify those with broadly neutralizing activity (BNhVMAbs) against NWA in cell-based assays (Aim 3) and to initially assess their in vivo therapeutic activity using infection of the mouse with recombinant LCM viruses expressing NWA HF-causing GPs of interest (Aim 4). The identification and characterization of NWA GP-specific BNhVMAbs will represent a first and necessary step for the development of an antibody (Ab)-based therapy against HF-causing NWA. Furthermore, characterization of the epitopes recognized by identified NWA GP-specific BNhVMAbs will facilitate the generation of immunogens able to induce similar broadly neutralizing (BN) responses to generate a polyvalent NWA vaccine, as well as the rationale design of broad-spectrum anti-NWA antiviral drugs.

Public Health Relevance

Several New World Arenaviruses (NWA) cause hemorrhagic fever (HF) disease in humans and represent important public health concerns within their endemic regions. Besides their impact in public health, HF- causing NWA pose also a credible biodefense threat. No FDA-licensed arenavirus vaccines are available, and current anti-arenavirus therapy is limited to the use of ribavirin, which is only partially effective and associated with side effects. In this R21 exploratory grant application we propose to generate cross-reactive NWA GP- specific human V region monoclonal antibodies (hVMAbs) using sequential plasmid DNA immunization of the VelocImmune mouse with selected NWA GPs that will be characterized for their cross-reactivity and broadly neutralizing (BN) activity against HF NWA both in cell-based assays and in vivo. The identification and characterization of NWA GP-specific BNhVMAbs will facilitate the development of an antibody (Ab)-based therapy to treat infections by HF NWA, as well as the generation of immunogens able to induce BN responses to develop a pan-NWA vaccine and the development of broad-spectrum anti-NWA drugs via targeting the conserved epitopes identified by these BNhVMAbs.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)
Exploratory/Developmental Grants (R21)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Virology - A Study Section (VIRA)
Program Officer
Repik, Patricia M
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
University of Rochester
School of Medicine & Dentistry
United States
Zip Code
Martinez-Sobrido, Luis; de la Torre, Juan Carlos (2016) Novel strategies for development of hemorrhagic fever arenavirus live-attenuated vaccines. Expert Rev Vaccines 15:1113-21