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HWCOM awarded $1.9 million to study Zika

February 3, 2017

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The Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine received nearly $2 million from the Florida Department of Health (FDOH) to study how the Zika virus breaches the blood brain barrier (BBB) in order to invade and kill neurons and other brain cells.

“We hope to find out how the virus gets into the brain, the mechanism by which it enters the cells, and then what kinds of therapies can be effective in eradicating it,” said project lead Nazira El-Hage, a professor in the department of immunology.

The team, which includes distinguished professor Madhavan Nair, will use Nair’s patented nano-technology to deliver an experimental drug, Beclin1, through the nearly impermeable blood brain barrier and into the brain to try to kill the virus. “If we can find the mechanism the virus uses to enter cells, we can find a drug to stop it,” says Nair, “and with our nano-technology we can drive it into the brain.

The grant is one of 34 announced by Governor Rick Scott in Tampa this week. Ten universities and research institutions will receive money from a $25 million fund Scott authorized last year for Zika research and vaccine development.

Read more on the role FIU researchers are playing in the fight against Zika from the Miami Herald.