Identification of innovative antiviral strategies to broad-spectrum antivirals for respiratory viruses.
Respiratory infections are one of the major causes of death worldwide. Viral infections kill millions yearly and we lack effective treatment for the majority of respiratory viruses. The commercially available antivirals mainly target viral proteins, but, as viruses are intracellular parasites, it is difficult to achieve selective viral inhibition without harming the host. Moreover, viruses are extremely prone to mutations and therefore they easily develop resistance to antivirals. In this scenario, another major limitation is the absence of broad-spectrum antivirals that could be particularly useful in the case of emerging infections, a problem particularly evident during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. Targeting or mimicking host proteins is an optimal solution for constructing a high barrier to viral resistance and broad-spectrum activity.
In particular, the lab is focusing on respiratory viruses for which there is a high medical need: respiratory syncytial virus (the first cause of bronchiolitis and pneumonia in infants worldwide), rhinoviruses (the first cause of common cold), influenza virus (responsible of seasonal epidemics and pandemics) and SARS-CoV-2 (which does not need an introduction).
The strategies to identify new antivirals include targeting viral attachment to the host cell, targeting viral replication and the discovery of new molecules through high throughput screenings.
The projects are founded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (Ambizione fellowship).