A research project from Alberto Luiz Coimbra Institute of Graduate Studies and Engineering Research, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, led by Professor Leda Castilho, is the recipient of the QuickFire Challenge award in Latin America, an initiative sponsored by Janssen Brazil and Johnson & Johnson Innovation to support life science innovation in the region. Professor Castilho, who was selected for her Zika virus research, is awarded six months of residency at the JLABS @ TMC incubator in Houston, Texas, where she and her team will have access to laboratory space, core research facilities, operations management and business services, as well as entrepreneur-related educational curriculum and networking events. Professor Castilho's team is moving their research efforts into the JLABS @ TMC site this month.
Professor Castilho's research is focused on the production of recombinant proteins from the Zika virus capsid. The Zika virus, which is rapidly spreading through the Americas, has been declared by the World Health Organization as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.
Recombinant Zika virus capsid proteins have the potential to be used to develop diagnostic tests that could distinguish between closely related flaviviruses, such as dengue and yellow fever, according to Johnson & Johnson. Additionally, recombinant viral proteins could be used for isolating or developing anti-Zika monoclonal antibodies, which may be used to treat or reduce the viral load of infected individuals. This is particularly important for pregnant women to reduce the risk of transmitting the virus to the fetus, thereby preventing microcephaly, which is linked to Zika infection in utero. Recombinant Zika capsid proteins may also prove useful to developing a Zika virus vaccine, which could play an important role in the long-term prevention and control of the disease.
Professor Leda dos Reis Castilho is currently a professor at the chemical engineering program at Alberto Luiz Coimbra Institute of Graduate Studies and Engineering Research, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (COPPE-UFRJ), coordinator of the Cell Culture Engineering Laboratory and works at the post graduation program in Biochemical of IQ/UFRJ. Previously, she did a sabbatical research internship at Bielefeld University in Germany and at the National Institute of Health (NIH) in the United States. Professor Castilho has a Ph.D. in biochemical engineering from the Technische Universitaet Braunschweig in Germany and a master's degree in chemical engineering from UFRJ School of Chemistry. Her research has reportedly won many awards and she was nominated in 2008 as member of the Brazilian Science Academy.
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