Dr. Wes Van Voorhis, Director of CERID, recently reflected on some exciting developments within CERID.

Building F Opens on SLU Campus

“I’m most excited about the new people who wanted to move nearby”, that is, into the new F building on the UW South Lake Union campus. “CERID is growing by leaps and bounds. Sixty percent of the microbiology department has moved over to South Lake Union. Many of their faculty have joined CERID as Affiliate Members, providing multiple opportunities for collaboration. “

Together, Wes and Dr. David Sherman, the newly appointed Chair of UW’s Department of Microbiology, will synergize efforts in order to widen CERID’s breadth and expertise for emerging infections research. “Having David Sherman and his department move to our campus expands our capabilities not only in microbiology, but also in areas such as gastrointestinal biology, bacterial pathogenesis and virology.”

UW Medicine Building F

Dr. David Sherman is leaving his position as Associate Director of Seattle Children’s Research Institute/Center for Infectious Diseases Research (SCRI-CIDR) while still maintaining close ties with CERID’s Westlake neighbor. Continued collaboration via the Sherman lab will strengthen ties between the two research institutions. Dr. Sherman is a local tuberculosis expert specializing in TB pathogenesis and drug discovery. He is currently an Affiliate Professor in UW’s Global Health Department and his research interests include systems biology and gene expression.

The opening of Building F has presented other opportunities for CERID investigators. Most notably, “Dr. Chetan Seshadri and Dr. Sean Murphy will expand their laboratory space into the F building and create a Good Laboratory Practice (GLP) laboratory”. In the past, the Murphy lab utilized local research facilities such as the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center to conduct clinical trials. The inclusion of a GLP laboratory will open the door for CERID researchers to participate in future clinical trials, an additional step in the drug discovery process not yet experienced on campus.

Cryptosporidium Research

The Van Voorhis laboratory’s Cryptosporidium efforts forge on with new developments on the drug design front. Cryptosporidiosis, commonly known as “Crypto”, is a common, potentially life-threatening, diarrheal disease largely affecting infants in the developing world and associated with malnutrition and stunted development. “While the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is moving away from funding Cryptosporidium research, our work in developing therapeutics for its treatment continues to move forward.”

“One exciting development for our (the Van Voorhis) lab is the recent global licensing agreement between ParaTheraTech Inc., (a spin-off company of UW’s CoMotion), and Bayer Animal Health to commercialize one of our drugs.” (See story)

The compound, developed in the Van Voorhis lab with collaboration from UW Chemistry, Biochemistry, and numerous non-UW collaborators, is effective and safe in the treatment of cryptosporidiosis in cattle. “Moving the cryptosporidiosis BKI compounds to industry will not only benefit the cattle industry, but also provide safety information for speeding their use for humans afflicted with cryptosporidiosis.”

The implementation of this therapeutic compound to treat childhood diarrhea and immunocompromised in individuals with Cryptosporidium isn’t too far behind. According to Wes, “We are a year or so away from getting final data to present to the FDA that will allow us to move into human clinical trials and perhaps one to two years away from ‘first in human’. Things are going really well there and I’m very excited about that.”

“In terms of our labs’ other work, we collaborate with multiple groups around the world to move forward drugs for neglected diseases.” This includes target protein production and structure solution, through Seattle Structural Genomics Center for Infectious Diseases (SSGCID), and performing PK and safety studies as well as biochemical and parasitological testing of compounds provided by our numerous collaborators. “This translates into real power to contribute to drug development in a meaningful way.” 

 “We may not end up with all the credit, or even a tiny bit of credit. But if we contribute to a drug getting developed, like an ant helping to build an anthill, that’s good enough.”

Interview 29 January 2019