Michigan State University
researchers are a part of an international research team that has manufactured a protein to combat deadly flu epidemics.
We started working on this project in the middle of 2009 after two exciting reports detailing an Achilles heel for the virus were published,” says Tim Whitehead, assistant professor of chemical engineering and materials science for MSU.
Then working at the University of Washington, Whitehead collaborated with Ian Wilson of the Scripps Institute who had authored of one of the exciting reports to develop design strategies and test ideas.
The resulting paper, was featured recently on the cover Nature Biotechnology, and demonstrates ways to use manufactured genes as antivirals to disable key functions of the flu virus.
“Pandemic Influenza outbreaks occur generationally and are capable of tens of millions of deaths worldwide. There exist therapeutics - most notable, Tamiflu - but new treatments are urgently needed,” says Whitehead. “The protein could be used as a treatment for pandemic Influenza outbreaks. There is a long road from this report to actually being able to inject the protein, however.”
Whitehead says the next step is to verify the ability of the protein to inhibit viral strains other than the H1N1 virus tested in the study, and to test its efficacy on live animal models.
Whitehead worked closely with Aaron Chevalier of the University of Washington who co-lead the study, as well as the Scripps Research Institute, Naval Health Research Center and the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel. Their research was funded by Defense Research Projects Agency, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the National Institute of General Medical Sciences.