The Tulane National Primate Research Center will soon begin work on a vaccine, and more effective diagnostic tools for the coronavirus.
The virus is expected to arrive at the St. Tammany Parish based facility in the next two to three weeks, and Associate Director Dr. Skip Bohm says it will likely take a while for their work to come to fruition.
“The process can take several years, and we might find that in the animal model that it works great, but there might be years after that to get it fully licensed and approved for human use,” says Bohm.
The virus has infected some 75,000 people worldwide and is thought to have killed over 2,000.
Part of their work will be developing more reliable ways to test for the disease. Bohm says like many early periods of a virus, they’re seeing a lot of false negatives and false positives.
“That can confuse a lot of early statistics of how many people are infected, how many people are not really infected, so one of the first steps you want to do is develop these kinds of diagnostics,” says Bohm.
25 countries have reported cases of the outbreak, with 15 in the United States.
Bohm says the Center was chosen for this work due to its long history of, and expertise in biosafety, biocontainment, infectious diseases, and their unique facility.
“We have a regional biocontainment laboratory and we can do work at animal biosafety level 3 and biosafety level 3 in the laboratories,” says Bohm.
Tulane was one of the first labs in the nation to receive CDC approval to study the virus.