Infectious Disease Accurate surveillance and rapid response capabilities are essential to combat emerging diseases as well as the threat of an intentional release of an infectious agent. By creating models of the spread of infectious disease and the likely effects of various countermeasures, Gryphon Scientific helps policymakers develop effective prevention and response strategies.
Evaluating A Global Disease Surveillance System
Gryphon evaluated and provided recommendations for improvement of the United States Department of Defense (DoD) biosurveillance system at Georgetown University. The DoD system seeks to detect disease outbreaks by monitoring local, regional, national and international media sources for early indications and warnings that a disease outbreak may be about to occur. The project consisted of three components. In task one, Gryphon identified other biosurveillance systems and identified the strengths and weaknesses of the DoD system when compared to its competitors. In task two, one year of data was summarized, and evaluated for accuracy and utility. The last component of this project studied the degree of overlap between the DoD system, which relies on foreign media for early detection of biological outbreaks, and the US media. To evaluate the DoD system, Gryphon compared it to historical disease incidence and also developed 20 test cases of historical human and animal disease outbreak to determine when the DoD system first detected the outbreak compared to other surveillance systems.
Avian Influenza Laboratory Design
Gryphon Scientific led a World Bank-sponsored avian influenza laboratory design and training project in Uzbekistan. We provided advice on national avian influenza preparedness documents; assisted in the development of laboratory guides, standard operating procedures, and biosafety manuals; and provided laboratory training. We have also worked closely with colleagues in other international organizations, such as the World Bank, the World Health Organization, and the Food and Agriculture Organization, to harmonize our efforts and to deconflict objectives.
Literature Assessment of Virus Rescue Systems
NBACC tasked Gryphon Scientific with conducting a comprehensive literature review and assessment to define rescue and reactivation systems for a group of RNA viruses which included Ebola, Nipah, measles, and rabies, as well as poxviruses, which include variola virus, causative agent of smallpox. We performed a systematic search and review of the existing scientific literature on reverse genetics systems for these viruses, which is a molecular biology technique that allows the recovery of live virus from genetic material. Specific attention was paid to identifying studies that discussed the rescue of a virus by infection with a related virus. The results of our literature search were summarized in two reports which were reviewed by experts in the reverse genetics field and deemed to be complete and well written, and were praised for their comprehensive nature and for highlighting unpublicized scientific studies with great relevance to biosecurity and biodefense. This project highlights Gryphon’s expertise with locating, interpreting, and presenting the findings of highly technical papers in an accessible format.
Disease Surveillance Training
Our staff has provided technical guidance on numerous infectious disease and surveillance projects through the Former Soviet Union including Russia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan based on an evaluation of existing systems. Our team has evaluated or designed systems to detect, characterize, and respond to a variety of human and animal pathogens. In support of these activities, we developed training modules for Biosafety and detection assays for various infectious agents. In addition to these training materials, we also developed Standard Operating Procedures for modern molecular laboratory methods in Uzbekistan for avian influenza detection, developed and reviewed Cooperative Biological Research (CBR) and Threat Agent Detection and Response projects for the U.S. Department of Defense Biological Threat Reduction Program, and developed “Country Science Plans” to outline future Department of Defense research engagement in Georgia, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan.
Writing for a Scientific Audience
Nature Medicine, one of the most widely read and highly regarded scientific journals, tasked Gryphon Scientific with writing summaries of current scientific publication relevant to the Nature Medicine readership. Gryphon staff reviewed and summarized research papers selected by Nature editors on a recurring basis. The summaries were clear and concise 200 word articles which succinctly and accurately capture the techniques used, scientific advance and overall implications of the work. Gryphon then submitted the summaries for editing by Nature staff and the authors of the scientific publication; the edits were incorporated and the summary was submitted for publication in hard copy and online. The turnaround time for these summaries was usually 48 hours or less, highlighting Gryphon’s ability to work on short and hard deadlines and to provide product of the highest quality under severe time constraints. Nature editors have the luxury of working with the best science writers in the world and Gryphon prides itself on providing product that meets their high expectations.
Agent Concentration in Clinical Samples
Gryphon Scientific reviewed and analyzed the medical and scientific literature on 15 bacteria, viruses and toxins. We performed meta-analysis on the existing data to predict the presence of these pathogens in various medical samples as a function of the time course of infection. Relevant data were found in medical and veterinary case reports, epidemiological studies, and controlled animal model experiments. Various routes of administration of the pathogens were presented separately. Conflicting data were presented in our report with hypotheses as to the source of disagreement. Conflicts were sometimes due to various methods used to determine viral load in a sample that were not directly comparable (such as culturing versus RT-PCR); these types of conflicts were resolved by investigating relative sensitivity and precision. This project culminated in a 120-page technical report with slightly less than 300 references that summarized our findings, highlighted conflicts in the data and presented a coherent picture of the topic.
Geographic Spread of a Pathogen Following an Intentional Release
In a project for the Department of Homeland Security, Directorate of Science and Technology, Gryphon Scientific modeled the impact of a biological attack at major US airports. A deadly biological agent, if released intentionally at one of the United States’ major airports, would have the potential to travel to multiple states and international locations, spreading response capabilities thin. Gryphon developed timelines for detection, disease course, and antibiotic distribution in the event of a biological attack. Specifically, we determined the expected geographic distribution of infected passengers after an attack and compared this distribution against available prophylaxis supplies in the US to identify gaps in our Nation’s response capabilities. We also modeled the possible impact of the attack against a range of detection time frames to determine requirements for future detection systems. This project will culminate in the generation of a set of recommendations to address the detection and response gaps presented by a widespread biological attack. In addition, we developed a set of requirements for developers of detection technologies to enhance our ability to identify and respond to a widely dispersed biological attack more effectively.
Developing and Curating Databases of Microbiological Data
In a contract with the NIH-NIAID, we manage the chemical and biological databases that serve as tools for the rational selection and discovery of potential therapies for AIDS and opportunistic infections (OIs). These databases can be found at http://chemdb.niaid.nih.gov/ and hold the structures and details of the activity of over 200,000 unique chemical entities that have been tested on HIV or its related infections. The database structure can accommodate text-based and structure-based information on each unique compound. The international scientific community can access database through a website that our team also maintains. In a project with the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate, Gryphon Scientific developed a database of several hundred genes associated with antibiotic resistance in bacteria. Our staff designed the database and populated it with data found in the biomedical literature and from subject matter experts.