2017 Ignition Awards Recipients Named

The WaNPRC Pilot Program, which is conducted jointly with the Institute for Translational Health Sciences, has been presented previously in an earlier Weekly Update.  Since that time, the awards for the Fiscal Year 56 have been made and we want to present some short summaries of these protocols, to demonstrate the type(s) of research the Pilot Program supports.  In short, the intent of the program is to support:

  • Innovative, research endeavor
  • An opportunity to collect preliminary data for future funding
  • Support research with translational goals, moving toward human applications

“The Washington National Primate Research Center is committed to advancing the understanding of human disease by funding talented investigators,” said Dr. Michael Mustari, Director of WaNPRC. “The Pilot Project program makes a valuable contribution to our Center’s mission to serve as a national resource for innovative research. This work is necessary to advance scientific knowledge needed to cure diseases across the lifespan.”

2017 Ignition Awards Recipients:

Michael Gale:  ”Using the Pigtail Macaque Model to Evaluate Novel Vaccines for Prevention of Zika Infection”

Zika virus (ZIKV) infection has become a serious public health concern due its linkage to microcephaly in developing human fetuses. There is no vaccine available for protecting humans against infection. ZIKV encodes a single envelope protein that is the target of neutralizing antibodies. Our preliminary data suggest that targeting this protein may be an efficient vaccine strategy. We have developed a nonhuman primate model (NHP) for ZIKV infection and now propose to employ this model to test novel ZIKV vaccines built from recombinant vesicular stomatitis virus lacking the viral matrix protein (rVSV) and expressing this protein. We will test this using our NHP model of ZIKV infection to assess these rVSV vaccines for protection against ZIKV in a vaccination/viral challenge study. Results of this work will provide critical information to support the preclinical development of rVSV vaccines against ZIKV infection.

Dorothy Patton:  “Mn model development: GC infection and URT imaging by PET”

The Macaca nemestrina has proven to be an invaluable model for female reproductive tract health and disease. We extensively use this model to better understand Chlamydia trachomatis infection, treatment and prevention, and to develop local and systemic STI prevention technologies (MPT and vaccines). We intend to expand the model to include gonorrheal infection (GC), another common STI, which has to date only been successfully modeled in chimpanzees and rodents. A feasible nonhuman primate model for GC is paramount to understanding pathogenesis and host response to infection. Current need for a GC model is heightened by the development of antibiotic-resistant strains of GC being tracked globally.

Secondly, we will explore the potential for using PET scanning technology to monitor upper reproductive tract (URT) disease by detecting inflammation in a non-invasive fashion, as opposed to multiple surgical visits now used to track ascension of disease in infected animals. STI prevention studies will benefit greatly from a significantly reduced impact on test animals.

Eliza Curnow:  “A nonhuman primate model of Fragile X syndrome”

The primary objective of this proposal is to generate a nonhuman primate (NHP) model of Fragile X syndrome (FXS) that will recapitulate the neurological and behavioral phenotype observed in the human thereby supporting the development and testing of neurotherapeutics to treat this disorder. Fragile X syndrome is associated with loss of the FMR1 gene product, FMR protein (FMRP) that leads to the characteristic phenotype of FXS including intellectual disability, cognitive impairment, abnormal behaviors and distinct morphological features. Considerable progress in understanding FXS has been made using animal models although several limitations with current systems exist and to date effective and reliable treatments for FXS have not been identified. Utilizing the unique resources available at the WaNPRC we propose to generate and validate a NHP FMR1 loss-of-function model as a research resource to aid in the discovery and pre-clinical testing of FXS neurotherapeutics.


The WaNPRC performs critical biomedical research leading to new advances in science and medicine. WaNPRC researchers are working to develop effective vaccines and therapies for HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases as well as new advances in genetics, neuroscience, vision, and stem cell biology and therapy. The WaNPRC directly supports the National Institutes of Health’s mission to translate scientific advances into meaningful improvement in healthcare and medicine.