New partnership investigates potential inhibitors of furin, a protein vital to the lifecycle of dengue fever virus and other infectious tropical diseases.
Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute (Sanford-Burnham) and 60- Pharmaceuticals, LLC, have entered into a partnership to test furin, a human proteinase, as a drug target for the treatment of dengue fever, one of the most common infectious diseases in the tropics and subtropics. 60- Pharmaceuticals, a philanthropic-for-profit company focused on neglected and rare diseases, agreed to provide funding to Sanford-Burnham for the first phase of research to explore inhibitors of furin.
Since viral genomes are too small to encode every protein needed for their survival, they take advantage of proteins in their human hosts. For the dengue virus and numerous other viruses-such as West Nile, Ebola, or yellow fever-furin is a vital host protein. For this reason, these viruses can only attack human cells that produce furin. Scientists at Sanford-Burnham are now trying to find a way to inhibit furin, making it impossible for the dengue virus to exploit and "hijack" a host cell.
"We're working on a new small-molecule furin inhibitor. It's a challenge to design, but could solve the toxicity problem that plagues existing viral inhibitors," explains Alex Strongin, Ph.D., professor in Sanford-Burnham's Infectious and Inflammatory Disease Center.