Principal investigator: Andreas Meyerhans and Juana Díez
Drugs with broad-spectrum antiviral activities may significantly simplify the treatment of co-infections like those of HIV/HCV and be used as frontier drugs against the spread of emerging viruses. The idea to develop broad-spectrum antiviral drugs originated from initial observations of the Diez' laboratory demonstrating that different viruses utilize common host cell factors for their multiplication. Thus, if one blocks these interactions with a single drug, then this drug would limit several viruses at the same time. This concept has now been proven and hit compounds that efficiently inhibit HIV and HCV infection in vitro have been identified and characterized. Given the need to expand the antiviral drug spectrum to new and emerging viruses for which no vaccines or antiviral drugs are available, the Virology Unit has established further experimental virus systems and is now able to use HIV, HCV, DENV, CHIKV and West-Nile virus for drug screens and mechanistic studies.
In order to adjust to the complex requirements of antiviral drug development, a strategic partnership with an international team of experts has been established that covers natural product isolation and characterization, natural product chemistry, biochemical assay development and in-vivo-infection-models for pharmacodynamic, pharmacokinetic and efficacy studies. These activities are part of the EU-funded COST action CM1407 "Challenging organic syntheses inspired by nature - from natural products chemistry to drug discovery". We consider the obtained results plus the joint knowledge and expertise to be a strong basis for the development of new antivirals with broad-spectrum activities.