DRACOs are Broad Spectrum Antivirals
Currently there are relatively few prophylactics or therapeutics for viruses, and most that do exist are highly virus- or even strain-specific or have undesirable side effects or other disadvantages. We have developed a radically new, broad-spectrum antiviral therapeutic/prophylactic that has the potential to revolutionize the treatment of viral infections.
Our Double-stranded RNA Activated Caspase Oligomerizer (DRACO) approach selectively induces apoptosis (cell suicide) in cells containing viral double-stranded RNA (dsRNA). DRACO should recognize virus-infected cells and rapidly kill those cells without harming uninfected cells, thereby terminating the viral infection while minimizing the impact on the host.
When tested in human and animal cells, DRACOs have been nontoxic and effective against 18 different viruses, including rhinovirus (the common cold) and dengue hemorrhagic fever - see table below.
We have also demonstrated that DRACO is nontoxic in mice and rescues mice from lethal challenges with H1N1 influenza, Amapari arenavirus, Tacaribe arenavirus, and Guama bunyavirus in preliminary trials. Our DRACO approach and results have been called “visionary” by the White House (National Bioeconomy Blueprint, April 2012, p. 9), named one of the best inventions of the year by Time magazine (November 28, 2011, pp. 58, 78), and featured on the BBC Horizons TV program (2013).
We are now raising funds to test and optimize DRACOs against the herpesvirus family, which contains many major clinical viruses such as Herpes Simplex Virus 1 (HSV-1), Herpes Simplex Virus 2 (HSV-2), Cytomegalovirus (CMV), Varicella Zoster Virus (VZV, chickenpox and shingles virus), Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV), and Kaposi's Sarcoma Herpesvirus (KSHV). If we can raise enough funding, we also hope to test and optimize DRACOs against the family of retroviruses, which includes Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Human T-Lymphotropic Virus (HTLV).
In principle, the DRACO approach should be effective against virtually all known viruses, or potentially even against new viruses that may appear.
However, research on DRACOs has entered the well-known “Valley of Death" (Source: NY Times), in which a lack of funding prevents DRACOs, and many other promising new drugs, from advancing toward human clinical trials.
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