Molecular Microbiology (Virology)
Institute of Medical Microbiology and Hygiene
University Regensburg

VIROFIGHT

Funding: EU – Horizon 2020
Full title: European Consortium for the Development of Novel Therapies against Viruses such as SARS-CoV-2, HIV, Influenza or Heaptitis

Current antiviral drugs constitute small molecules that target and inactivate typical proteins or enzymes of selected viruses. Within the EU-funded Virofight project (coordinated by the Technical University of Munich), nanometer sized shells shall be developed that enclose viruses, thus neutralizing them. This new approach might allow targeting of diverse viruses by employing the same method.

Virus infections affect millions of people each year. They cause severe human suffering and enormous costs to society. The current COVID-19 pandemic is only one of many examples. For more than 70 % of viruses listed by the WHO, no therapy is available, and the existing antiviral drugs have to be administered very shortly after infection to be effective. The Virofight consortium proposes a new approach to fight virus infections that shall make it possible to counter the shortage of broadly applicable antivirals and also to target newly emerging pathogens.

The aim is to develop prototypes of nano-shells and to principally prove that they are capable of enclosing different viruses. Different technologies will be applied during the development of these biocompatible nano-shells such as DNA origami, protein design and in-vitro-evolution. The interior of the shells will be coated with molecules that are tuned to certain viruses and ensure a strong and specific interaction. These binding effects shall be assessed for different viruses on a laboratory scale. To achieve the desired project aims, different competences are required. Therefore, the project brings together experts from the fields of supermolecular chemistry, molecular nano-engineering and virology.

Within the Virofight consortium, the Wagner Lab is involved in the evolution of those components that provide the nano-shells with specificity toward the different viruses. Moreover, the team will test the efficacy of the nano-shell protoypes against HIV, influenza or corona viruses.

Project partners:
Technical University Munich (TUM; Germany) – project coordinator
University of Regensburg (Germany)
Aarhus University (Denmark)
ARTTIC S.A.S. (France)
National Institute of Chemistry (Slovenia)

Further information:
Virofight Website
EU Cordis portal
Universität Regensburg

Assembly and functionalization schematic of DNA-Origami nanoshells as published in Monferrer et al, Science physical reports, 2023 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.xcrp.2022.101237