‘A Huge Checkmark In The Win column’ In The Fight Against EEE

Last week, The House Armed Services Committee passed an amendment with unanimous support introduced by U.S. Representative Dan Maffei calling on the Department of Defense to continue work on a vaccine for Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) and outline how to make the vaccine available to the public.

A young girl in Oswego County, Maggie Sue Glenister Wilcox,  died on Aug. 14, 2011, after being infected by a mosquito carrying the EEE virus.

The Maggie Sue Glenister Wilcox Foundation, is a 501c (3) not-for-profit corporation. It’s a solely volunteer based corporation that was organized by Maggie Sue’s family after her sudden and tragic death.

Its mission is to spread awareness of and push to procure funding for the research and development of a human vaccine for Eastern Equine Encephalitis, more commonly referred to as EEE, according to Donna Wilcox, Maggie’s aunt.

In response to Rep. Maffei’s amendment, The MSGW Foundation said:

“On the heels of Rep. Maffei’s press release regarding the continuing efforts relating to the research and development of a human vaccine for EEE, we consider today a huge checkmark in the win column in the ongoing battle against the Beast, Eastern Equine Encephalitis. We are so very grateful for all those fighting with us and for us; our family, friends, neighbors and especially Senator Patty Ritchie and Rep. Dan Maffei!”

Wilcox also shared the following correspondence she received from Rep. Maffei’s office.

Hi Ms. Wilcox –
I hope you’re doing well.  It’s been awhile since we last spoke, but I wanted to give you a brief update on some of the EEE-related things that Rep. Maffei has been working on recently.

Last year, you and Rep. Maffei discussed the need to get the military working on speeding up the military’s clinical trials and bring the vaccine to market.  To follow up on that, he successfully added an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act on EEE.  That is the bill passed each year by the Armed Services Committee to give the military operating instructions for the upcoming year.  The amendment directs the military to update us on how the military is working with HHS on a vaccine and how the military’s stockpile of vaccine could be made available to the general public.  I will be sure to share the updates we receive from the military.  They are required to get back to us with a report by the end of the year.

The big obstacle we still face is the lack of interest in commercial pharmaceutical companies in mass producing the vaccine for the general public.  They are able to use the formula to do it, but none are interested.  That is why we are trying to take the approach with the military right now.

I also ask a few weeks ago for an update from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) on their research into EEE and a vaccine and what the MSGW Foundation’s generous donation is being used for.  This is the official update I received from them today:

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), supports research on the biology, pathogenesis, and host response to Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) virus. Currently, NIAID is supporting a number of projects related to EEE virus, including basic research studies and early translational research efforts that may pave the way for the development of therapeutics and vaccines. NIAID supports the development of EEE virus vaccines through extramural awards and intramural research at the NIAID Vaccine Research Center (VRC). The NIAID VRC has developed vaccine candidates based on virus-like particles (VLP) for EEE virus and the related viruses that cause Western equine encephalitis (WEE) and Venezuelan equine encephalitis (VEE). The NIAID VRC is collaborating with the Department of Defense to develop, test in animal models, manufacture candidate vaccine product, and, ultimately, conduct  Phase I clinical testing of a VLP-based vaccine against EEE, WEE, and VEE in humans. It is expected that enrollment for this Phase I trial will begin in 2015.

In 2013, NIAID received a donation of $12,000 from the MSGW Foundation, Inc. NIAID appreciates the thoughtfulness in the donation to the NIAID research program.

In accordance with the wishes of the donor, the funds will be used to support research of the EEE virus and vaccine development.

Specifically, the donation will support an ongoing project in Fiscal Year 2014 titled Molecular mechanisms of Eastern equine encephalitis virus pathogenesis led by Dr. William Klimstra at the University of Pittsburgh.

The project is investigating how binding of EEE virus to the heparin sulfate (HS) receptor on cells affects EEE viral fitness and pathogenesis.

This research will help inform our understanding of Eastern equine encephalitis and its serious clinical outcomes.

In addition, because the EEE virus-HS receptor interaction is an important target for antiviral therapeutics, the results of this study may also be used to design therapeutics as well as vaccine vectors.

Further details on this research project can be found on the NIH website at: http://projectreporter.nih.gov/project_info_description.cfm?aid=8608475&icde=20297049&ddparam=&ddvalue=&ddsub=&cr=2&csb=default&cs=ASC.

The link they provided gives more information on where your donation went, and it sounds like it is supporting really great research.

Additionally, I am asking them for more information about the Department of Defense’s clinical trials for an EEE vaccine that are planned for next year.

I hope this update is helpful – we ended up receiving a lot of information on EEE this week!

Rep. Maffei wanted to be sure to follow up on everything you discussed last year.  Please know that we’re continuing the work on it and I’ll let you know what else we hear back from NIH and the military.

Please let me know if you have any questions.  Also, if you’re planning any other MSGW Foundation events this summer, please let us know!

Becky Cornell
Legislative Director
Representative Dan Maffei (NY-24)
422 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515