New approaches and new substances are needed in the fight against infectious diseases. This has been shown evidently by the coronavirus pandemic. In response to the emergence of SARS-CoV-2, the Volkswagen Stiftung has launched the funding initiative "Innovative Approaches in Antiviral Drug Development" back in 2020. Recently, the foundation has announced more than ten projects that will be funded with a total of 6.6 million euros.
One of them is coordinated by Prof. Thomas Pietschmann, Director of the Institute for Experimental Virology at TWINCORE and Professor for Experimental Virology at Hannover Medical School. Together with Prof. Anna K. H. Hirsch (Helmholtz Institute for Pharmaceutical Research Saarland), Prof. Gesine Hansen (Hannover Medical School, Clinic for Paediatric Pneumology, Allergology and Neonatology), as well as Prof. Thomas Krey (University of Lübeck, Institute of Biochemistry), he will be optimizing new inhibitors against the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) over the next 15 months. The team will receive a total of about 700,000 euros for the project called OPTIS (Optimization of novel Respiratory Syncytial Virus-inhibitors by multi-parametric profiling).
RSV causes severe respiratory infections, especially in young children, and is the most common cause of hospitalization in the first two years of life. An effective antiviral therapy does not yet exist. In its own preliminary work, the research team has already identified some promising candidates for antiviral agents. Together with the company ENYO Pharma, these molecules and others, which were discovered by ENYO Pharma, will now be structurally and chemically optimized, in order to make the development of resistances more difficult in the case of virus mutations. Such industrial cooperation is an integral part of the funding initiative, so that the developability is factored in from the beginning unlike in purely basic projects.
Further information on the funding initiative and the project can be found on the website of the Volkswagen Foundation.