Alexander: Vanderbilt Ebola Researchers, State Health Experts “Ready to Run Toward the Flames with Fireproof Suits On”

Meets with Vanderbilt researchers who are developing therapies to combat deadly Ebola virus and state health officials preparing Tennessee for threats

Posted on September 24, 2014

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“Unless it is controlled, this will be one of the most explosive, dangerous, deadly epidemics in modern times.” –Lamar Alexander

NASHVILLE, September 24 – At a roundtable today with Vanderbilt University Medical Center experts and state health officials, U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said Tennessee and the nation must be prepared to respond to the Ebola epidemic “with the urgency required of a threat as deadly and dangerous as ISIS.” The roundtable came one day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that under a worst case scenario with no intervention, the Ebola epidemic could reach 1.4 million cases by late January.‎

Alexander, who has urged the Obama administration to provide a more urgent response, praised the work of Vanderbilt immunologist Dr. James Crowe and his team of researchers who are developing treatments for viruses including Ebola. He also praised the Tennessee Department of Health and Tennessee hospitals for their work to prepare Tennessee for this and other potential threats.

“Unless it is controlled, this will be one of the most explosive, dangerous, deadly epidemics in modern times and Tennesseans are helping in the nation’s response as well as preparing for any threat here at home,” Alexander said. “There is no known cure. Half of those who get sick from Ebola die. Each sick person could put up to 20 other people at risk, including caregivers, friends, or family. Vanderbilt researchers and state officials know we need to run toward the burning flames with fireproof suits on.”

Roundtable participants included Dr. Lawrence Marnett, Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s associate vice chancellor for research; Dr. James Crowe, director of the Vanderbilt Vaccine Center; Dr. William Schaffner, one of the country’s leading experts on infectious diseases and a consultant to the Tennessee Department of Health; and Dr. Tim Jones, State Epidemiologist, Tennessee Department of Health and Director of the Communicable and Environmental Diseases and Emergency Preparedness Division.

Alexander, the senior Republican on the Senate health committee, hosted the roundtable to discuss the Ebola outbreak and highlight the work being done in Tennessee. He also toured Vanderbilt’s biosafety level-2 lab, where researchers take the blood of confirmed Ebola cases, isolate cells that secrete Ebola neutralizing antibodies, and prepare the antibodies for shipment to a lab with the highest biosafety rating at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston for further study.  They are in the process of developing hundreds of antibodies to Ebola, several of which are already known to kill Ebola virus.

Last week, at a special joint committee Senate hearing on the Ebola epidemic, Alexander urged the administration to prepare a more urgent response to the epidemic and pledged his support for the administration’s request for $30 million for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and $58 million for the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) in the continuing resolution. He also said he would support the Defense Department’s request to help with the Ebola response.

At the hearing, he also met with Dr. Kent Brantly, an Ebola survivor who testified about his work at Samaritan’s Purse and as an Ebola patient. Brantly, Alexander noted, is the son of two Lipscomb University graduates.

Alexander said today: “While it seems quite far away, with today’s global travel West Africa is really just hours away. We are only one airplane ride away from a person exposed to Ebola getting on a plane to the US and then becoming sick once they arrive,” Alexander said.

 

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