Pathogens caused major havoc affecting the health of the human population since early times. Among the most lethal pathogens are infectious viruses that in some cases result in a pandemic, wide-ranged infectious viruses causing lethal diseases. The recent SARS coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has now claimed more than 15,000 lives and infected more than 350,000 people. An antiviral drug is urgently needed to combat this highly pathogenic virus that first enters the body through the lungs. Coronaviruses, like the flu viruses. begin infection by attachment to a target cell surface protein, known as a receptor, and then require cleavage of their coat protein (known as S-protein) to expose a structure that allows membrane fusion, leading to viral infection of the targeted cells. In the case of the respiratory COVID-19 the targeted cells are those of the lungs. However, the molecular scissor (protease) that activates the fusion of the virus with the alveolar cells of the lungs is not known. We were the first to suggest in a published article in Antiviral Research on Feb 10 (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0166354220300528), that the cognate protease is likely to be Furin, one of the enzymes isolated and extensively studied in my laboratory. We aim to prove experimentally that Furin is the culprit protease of the S-protein and to test novel inhalable drugs that effectively and in a non-toxic way block the function of Furin. This should lead to the first inhalable Furin-inhibitor as a therapeutic candidate for inhibiting the COVID-19 infections and spread.
26 May, 2012