Area of Research
Ines Elakhal Naouar, Ph.D; Associate Lab Director-PDL,
Diagnostics and Countermeasures Branch (DCB)
Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR)
HJF employee since 2013
Over the last 18 months, Dr. Ines Elakhal Naouar has been supporting the WRAIR Diagnostics and Countermeasures Branch (DCB) by developing new diagnostic tools to answer Military relevant COVID-19 questions.
The DCB rapid response team, including Dr. Elakhal Naouar, designed, evaluated, and validated a manual assay for the quantification of SARS-CoV-2 viral burden (genomic viral load assays) and intermediate viral replication species (subgenomic RNA: sgRNA). The assays were used in support of WRAIR SpFN vaccine challenge studies in animal models (Non-human primates and Hamsters) to monitor viral load and replication kinetics of the virus. The sgRNA assay was shown to be a useful tool to assess viral clearance in vaccine efficacy studies. In addition, the sgRNA assay was used to support viral load determinations in US Military personnel in support of a WRAIR Emerging Infectious Disease Branch (EIDB) Public Health project.
In parallel, Dr. Elakhal Naouar and the team validated the sgRNA assay on a high throughput platform (Hologic Panther-Fusion) using the open access functionality for integration as a clinical Laboratory Developed Test (LDT) to inform patient management. The assay met the FDA/CAP guidelines for an LDT in terms of sensitivity, specificity, accuracy and precision.
Results from these studies were reported in four peer-reviewed high impact journals in collaboration with EIDB and other collaborators.