Translating systems virology data into broad-spectrum antiviral drugs

SysVirDrug is a translational project, aiming to establish a strategy for the development of true “antivirotics”– drugs that, analogously to antibiotics (which are effective only against bacterial infection), can be used to treat viral infections caused by a whole group of different viruses. SysVirDrug focuses on positive-strand RNA viruses, a broad class of viruses that extends from every-day infections such as the common cold to life-threatening diseases such as hepatitis C, dengue fever and SARS. SysVirDrug brings together world leading virological groups with computational and mathematical experts, with the aim to identify most efficient drug targets with broad antiviral efficacy. As viruses make extensive use of host mechanisms for their own benefit, SysVirDrug focuses on host cell processes as targets for antiviral treatment. The consortium can build on large-scale screening experiments that have been conducted by the partner laboratories, using RNA interference. These experiments identify host processes that are hijacked by specific viruses during the infection. Such processes are potential targets for “antiviotic” drug design, if they are targets of a whole group of different viruses. The SysVirDrug consortium uses a combination of wetlab experiments, sophisticated bioinformatics approaches and mathematical and computational modelling to identify most efficient, broadly active anti-viral targets or combinations of targets, and strategies to interfere with these target mechanisms to treat the infection. Chemoinformatics approaches are then used to identify suitable drug molecules targeting the identified host cell processes, which are subsequently tested and – if successful – will be commercialized with the help of a technology transfer partner.

Project group
Lars Kaderali, Technische Universität Dresden, Germany
Marco Binder, German Cancer Research Center, Heidelberg, Germany
Eric Snijder, Leiden University Medical Center, the Netherlands
Frank Van Kuppeveld, Utrecht University, the Netherlands
Ralf Bartenschlager, University of Heidelberg, Germany
Niko Beerenwinkel, ETH Zurich, Basel, Switzerland
Antreas Afantitis, NovaMechanics Ltd., Nicosia, Cyprus
Jörg Rauch, technology transfer heidelberg GmbH, Germany