Development of a Therapeutic for Lassa Fever

Lassa fever is a viral, hemorrhagic (causes bleeding) disease found in tropical regions of Africa. Each year, an estimated 300,000 people are infected, and severe cases can be fatal. Symptoms include fever and damage to multiple organs and the circulatory system. Current treatment options are inadequate, relying primarily on supportive care. The purpose of this project is to develop an antiviral drug to treat and prevent Lassa fever.

Scientific Synopsis

Lassa fever is one of a group of viral hemorrhagic fevers (VHFs). Several VHFs are caused by arenaviruses, a family of enveloped RNA viruses. Five of these arenaviruses are classified as Category A Priority Pathogens by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Arenavirus VHFs are found in tropical regions of South America and Africa, and Lassa fever is endemic to countries in West Africa (Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea).

Current treatment by intravenous ribavirin has shown some efficacy against Lassa fever when administered early in the course of the disease, but toxicities limit its use. The goal of this project is to develop a small molecule inhibitor able to treat and prevent Lassa fever as well as other arenavirus VHFs.

Lead Collaborator

Kineta, Inc., Seattle

Sean Amberg, Ph.D.

Public Health Impact

Lassa fever affects an estimated 300,000 people annually in the developing world, resulting in about 5,000 deaths. With the exception of an Argentina-licensed vaccine for Junín virus, no approved vaccines or therapeutics are available for diseases caused by arenaviruses. This project represents an important step toward developing an effective drug to treat and prevent a number of related neglected tropical diseases.


TRND scientists completed a gap analysis and created a preclinical development plan that identified a set of critical experiments and milestones for the project. During the planning phase, the lead collaborator established a new business alliance, enabling Kineta to use internal corporate resources to continue development and not enter into a collaboration agreement with TRND. This TRND project is complete.