Delegation Announces $2.9 Million Grant for West Nile Virus Research at the University of North Dakota

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senators John Hoeven and Kent Conrad and Congressman Rick Berg today announced that the University of North Dakota (UND) will receive a $2.9 million competitive grant from the U.S Department of Energy (DOE) for research into treatments to combat the West Nile virus. 

DOE’s investment allows UND, in partnership with Avianax and the Mayo Clinic, to continue work to develop treatments and diagnostic products that use goose antibodies to fight the West Nile virus. Antibodies from geese have shown promise in treating patients infected with the virus, and this funding will advance pre-clinical studies to assess the safety and efficacy of the products against the West Nile virus. The project, which is also funded by the UND Center of Excellence for Passive Therapeutics, will also develop methods to increase the production of the goose antibodies to create the therapies.  

“The strategic partnerships we’re creating through our state’s Centers of Excellence programs not only help to create good jobs and attract federal investments to our state, but also create products that save lives and combat some of our nation’s health challenges” said Hoeven.   

“The West Nile virus is a real threat and is spreading — both here in North Dakota and across the nation. It poses a real danger, both to humans and livestock, and it must be addressed,” Senator Conrad said.  “Researchers at UND are on the frontline of this battle to combat West Nile virus, and this federal grant will further support their efforts.” 

"I'm proud that North Dakota is a partner in the research and development of this treatment that holds such potential to benefit our health care system,” said Berg.  “This initiative will help create good North Dakota jobs and reaffirms UND's leadership in research and technology." 

West Nile virus is a disease spread by mosquitoes. Mild forms of the virus may cause abdominal pain, fever and headache.  More severe forms of disease, which can be life threatening, may be called West Nile encephalitis or West Nile meningitis, depending on what part of the body is affected. Symptoms include: confusion, loss of consciousness and muscle weakness.