New research collaboration will develop nano shells that encapsulate and fight virus particles
Professor Jørgen Kjems and the consortium Virofight has received funding from the EU FET-OPEN program to advance novel antiviral treatment. Instead of targeting virus-specific proteins or enzymes by small molecules as done by current antivirals, the Virofight project will develop DNA-based nano-shells that engulf and neutralize entire viruses. This novel approach has the potential to help fight multiple viruses with one generic approach.
Viral infections affect millions of people every year and cause tremendous human suffering and costs to society. For the majority of all WHO-listed viruses, there is no treatment available and the antiviral drugs that do exist must be applied very early after infection to be effective.
The Virofight consortium proposes a new approach to fight viral infections, addressing the lack of broadly applicable antiviral treatments and creating means for combating new viral diseases. The consortium consists of five research groups in Germany, Slovenia and Denmark and is coordinated by Hendrik Dietz at the Technical University of Munich.
Origami capsules built from DNA
The Virofight consortium will construct biocompatible nano shells by combining the principles of DNA origami, protein design and in vitro evolution of chemical antibodies termed aptamers. The inside of the nano shells will be coated with a layer of virus-specific molecules, which makes the virus binding strong and specific. The effects of these bindings will be tested on a variety of viruses in the laboratory. In order to achieve the technological goals, the interdisciplinary project brings together experts in supramolecular chemistry and molecular nanoengineering, and virologists.
'Our mission is to develop and test prototypes of engulfing nano shells that have the principal capacity to neutralize any given virus', says Prof. Hendrik Dietz. Jørgen Kjems adds 'By combining DNA origami with anti-viral aptamers we can develop flexible tools to detect and neutralise a range of disease-causing viruses'.
Virofight is supported by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 funding program with 3.88 million Euro. The project was initiated on 1st June 2020 and will run for four years.