Using Small Molecules to Battle Emerging Viruses
Outbreaks of new viral diseases are increasing at an alarming rate, and are a worldwide concern. A notable example is the Ebola virus, which causes highly lethal hemorrhagic fevers in humans. Other emerging threats include the Marburg virus, Lassa fever virus, and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus. All of these cause severe disease in humans—and there are currently no approved vaccines or effective therapies to combat them.
But to develop new therapeutic drugs and, potentially, broad-spectrum antivirals, researchers need a better understanding of the molecular mechanisms by which viruses infect cells. In particular, we need to identify the cellular proteins that viruses need and use during the infection process, because these can be targeted to block the spread of viruses.
Dr. Marceline Côté, Canada Research Chair in Molecular Virology and Antiviral Therapeutics, aims to gain insights into the molecular details of infection by emerging viruses. Using a combination of chemical biology and genetic approaches, she and her research team aim to simultaneously discover potent small molecules that inhibit infection and identify cellular factors needed for infection.
Côté’s research will not only reveal how viruses infect and spread, but will serve as the starting point for developing new antivirals, and could ultimately lead to developing urgently needed therapies to fight new viral diseases.