Ricardo Carrion, Jr., Ph.D.

Ricardo Carrion, Jr., Ph.D.

Professor | Disease Intervention & Prevention, Faculty, Southwest National Primate Research Center

Research Focus

Dr. Carrion’s lab aims to advance the vaccine and therapy development specifically for hemorrhagic fever, an illness caused by viruses from distinct families, many of which have no cure, and for which no vaccines are available. The team uses the maximum containment biosafety level 4 (BSL-4) laboratory to safely study those pathogens.

  • Ebola virus, Marburg virus
  • Common marmoset nonhuman primate infectious disease models
  • Advanced development of vaccines for hemorrhagic fever viruses
  • New detection methods for bioterror agents

Dr. Carrion has more than 15 years of experience in microbiology and parasitology.

Inside The Lab

Filoviruses, such as Ebola virus and Marburg virus, are examples of highly lethal agents that induce hemorrhagic fever with a mortality rate of up to 90 percent. These viruses have also been responsible for an 88 percent decline in the world’s chimpanzee populations since 2003.

In support of filovirus vaccine development, we have developed the common marmoset as a nonhuman primate model for Ebola and Marburg virus disease. We have shown that marmosets, small new world monkeys weighing less than 400 grams, exhibit disease effects similarly to humans, and can serve as a small nonhuman primate model for filovirus-induced hemorrhagic fever. Identification of this rodent-sized nonhuman primate model is so important because marmosets are more predictive of therapeutic efficacy than traditional small animal models.

Most recently, we have been awarded contracts to test the efficacy of several vaccine platforms against filoviruses, including multivalent virus like particle (VLP) vaccines, adeno-vectored vaccines, and modified vaccinia ankara (MVA) vaccines. Most have shown efficacy in smaller animal models and will be validated in nonhuman primate models of disease at Texas Biomed. Several vaccine candidates that were previously tested with success at Texas Biomed are now part of human clinical safety trials.

Our lab has shown that two drugs available for leukemia treatment can also block Ebola replication in vitro. Replication of the highly pathogenic Ebola virus strain Zaire, responsible for the recent (2014-15) Ebola virus epidemic in West Africa, was inhibited by c-Abl1-specific siRNAs or by the Abl-family inhibitor nilotinib. This indicates that c-Abl regulates budding or release of filoviruses, offering a potential new target for antiviral therapy.

In our efforts to discover new detection methods for bioterror agents, we recently teamed up with a local biotechnology company to test an Handheld Aptamer-Magnetic Bead-Quantum Dot Sensor for Crimean Congo Hemorrhagic Fever (CCHF), a tick- borne disease causing hemorrhagic fever in eastern Europe, Asia, India and Africa, with hospitalized patient fatality rates ranging from 9 to 50 percent.

Additionally, we collaborated with researchers to develop an optofluidic analysis system for amplification-free, direct detection of Ebola infection. This technology uses on-chip fluorescence detection for biosensing applications.

To advance our development of therapeutic antibodies for treatment of Ebolavirus disease, we have recently teamed with BARDA, the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority.

Main Technologies And Methods Used

  • BSL-4 laboratory research
  • Filovirus macaque models
  • Marmoset infectious disease models