SÃO PAULO, June 6, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- Janssen Brazil and Johnson & Johnson Innovation, JLABS, today announced that 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, has been selected as 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 cutting-edge Zika virus research, was awarded six months of residency at the JLABS @ TMC incubator in Houston, Texas, where she and her team will have access to state-of-the art laboratory space, core research facilities, operations management and business services, as well as entrepreneur-related educational curriculum and networking events.
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 WHO (World Health Organization) as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. Rapid efforts and collaboration to utilize innovative strategies and interventions to combat the disease are urgently needed. Infection by the Zika virus has been linked with the development of microcephaly, a birth defect wherein the head is abnormally small, seen in infants born of infected mothers. The virus is transmitted to humans by Aedes aegypti mosquitos.
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. 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, so as 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 Castilho's team is moving their research efforts into the JLABS @ TMC site in June 2016.
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 been granted many awards and she was nominated in 2008 as member of the Brazilian Science Academy.
Alberto Luiz Coimbra Institute of Graduate Studies and Engineering Research (COPPE) was founded in 1963 by engineer Alberto Luiz Coimbra, and helped create graduate education in Brazil. Throughout the years, it has become the largest engineering education and research center in Latin America, and more than 13,000 Masters and PhDs have graduated from its 13 strict sense (Masters and PhD) graduate programs.
For 13 years, COPPE-UFRJ Chemical Engineering Program's Cell Culture Engineering Laboratory (LECC), has carried out research, development and innovation projects focused on establishing innovative biopharmaceutical manufacturing technologies, monoclonal antibodies, cellular therapies and vaccines.
Mobilizing against Zika virus
As part of the Company's commitment to Global Public Health, the Johnson & Johnson family of companies has combined efforts of its three business sectors (Consumer, Medical Devices and Pharmaceuticals), to mobilize against the Zika virus. Janssen is currently evaluating existing assets and platforms and remains committed to collaborating with like-minded organizations to help address and overcome this medical emergency. Our collaborations focus on addressing the outbreak of diseases transmitted by the Ae. aegypti mosquito - with emphasis on the Zika virus - ranging from support for research and education programs to prevention, diagnosis and treatment of symptoms and diseases.
About the Latin American Johnson & Johnson Innovation QuickFire Challenge
The Latin American QuickFire Challenge was formed as part of an ongoing commitment to support life sciences innovators and the development of integrated, cross-sector solutions to prevent, intercept and cure diseases. This regional initiative led by Johnson & Johnson Innovation, JLABS, in collaboration with Janssen Brazil, encourages development of innovative technologies in healthcare relevant to the Latin American region. Entries were received from researchers at academic institutions and early stage companies conducting research and development activities in healthcare. The recipient, who will have no commercial ties to the Johnson & Johnson family of companies, can enjoy the administrative infrastructure, networking events and access to the latest technological resources and equipment at JLABS @ TMC in Houston for six months.
About Johnson & Johnson Innovation, JLABS
JLABS, part of Johnson & Johnson Innovation LLC, provides the tools and resources needed to help life science startups thrive. Residents have access to turnkey, state-of-the-art infrastructure as well as year-round commercialization curriculum and networking events, onsite team for operations and business services, all with no-strings attached. JLABS links regional entrepreneurs with the full breadth of Johnson & Johnson Innovation, including opportunities to discuss funding, access to third-party services, educational events and meetings with R&D experts from our medical device technology, consumer healthcare product and Janssen pharmaceutical teams. For more information or to apply to JLABS, please visit JLABS.jnjinnovation.com.
About the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies
At the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies [of Johnson & Johnson], we are working to create a world without disease. Transforming lives by finding new and better ways to prevent, intercept, treat and cure disease inspires us. We bring together the best minds and pursue the most promising science. We are Janssen. We collaborate with the world for the health of everyone in it. Learn more at www.janssen.com.
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SOURCE Johnson & Johnson Innovation