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Project Highlight

Successful cross-disciplinary collaboration yields new chikungunya antiviral hits

Birgit, a PhD student at Cardiff University (UK), has succeeded in modelling 26 inhibitors of chikungunya virus using computational methods for predicting best candidate drugs.

Chikungunya fever is a mosquito-borne tropical disease that can lead to abrupt fever and long-lasting joint pain. Because there are currently no licensed antiviral drugs against this disease on the market, the search for new chikungunya inhibitors is of great medical importance.

In order to discover new chikungunya antivirals, Birgit performed so called virtual screening of a compound collection called SPECS. In her approach, these compounds were used to target one of the viral proteins while paying close attention to the most important features of its already known binding partner. As she described, this process of ‘match-making’ between the candidate drug and the viral protein can take up to 6 months, especially given the tricky nature of the protein.

To test the 26 newly designed inhibitors for biological activity, Birgit is collaborating with virologists at the Rega Institute, KU Leuven (Belgium). As a result of this partnership, 4 initial hits were identified in cell-based assays. In the future, she hopes to join one of the partners in the ANTIVIRALS consortium to better understand the biological mechanism and applications of her compounds.

25 July 2016 – written by Kristina Kovacikova

Birgit at work