WEST DES MOINES, Iowa, Aug. 29, 2016 /PRNewswire/ - The Zika virus outbreak has risen to the level of a public health crisis. Experts at the International Congress of Immunology in Melbourne, Australia said on Thursday that efforts to combat Zika likely won't produce results quickly enough to prevent tens of millions of women from becoming infected and millions of babies having brain defects as a result of the mosquito-borne virus.
Adding to concerns, the journal Radiology published a special report this week, releasing new evidence that the array of severe brain defects in fetuses and babies of mothers infected with the Zika virus extends beyond microcephaly (a child born with an abnormally small head due to incomplete brain development). Research indicates that the infection has its most damaging effect when transmitted to a fetus from a pregnant mother, especially during the first trimester.
According to Fernanda Tovar-Moll, M.D., Ph.D., VP of the D'Or Institute for Research and Education, professor at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and lead author of the research, new brain scans and ultrasound images have revealed previously unrecognized neurological defects including brainstem abnormalities, loss of gray matter, enlarged brain ventricles, stunted growth, and defects of the eyes and ears.
Originating in South America, the threat is spreading: 43 people are suspected to have been infected in Florida since the first case in the state was reported in late July, and the World Health Organization has warned that Zika could affect up to four million Americans. Zika has now caught the attention of Wall Street investors, who are seeking companies engaged in anti-Zika research and development.
This morning, Spotlight Innovation (OTCQB: STLT) joined the fight against Zika, entering into a Sponsored Research Agreement with Florida State University to support research directed by FSU professor Hengli Tang aimed at developing safe and effective drugs to treat patients infected with Zika virus. Iowa-based Spotlight Innovation focuses on identifying and acquiring rights to proprietary technologies in areas of unmet medical need, with an emphasis on rare or emerging diseases and conditions, such as Zika.
Prof. Tang, an accomplished virologist, recently co-authored a study in the journal Cell Stem Cell that demonstrated for the first time the ability of ZIKV to target human embryonic cortical neural progenitor cells. After infecting these crucial brain development cells, the virus replicates and interferes with cell growth, function and viability.
In this morning's press release, Dr. Geoffrey Laff, SVP of Business Development at Spotlight Innovation, commented, "Prof. Tang is a true pioneer in the scientific community's efforts to combat Zika virus. We are thrilled that he has chosen to collaborate with us to develop novel therapies for Zika infection."
To learn more about Spotlight Innovation and to read the complete press release, interested parties are encouraged to visit the Company's website at: http://www.spotlightinnovation.com.
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SOURCE Spotlight Innovation Inc.