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Fri, 09 Mar 2018
Broad-spectrum virucidal antivirals

Time: 3.00 PM - 4.00 PM

Venue: Cysteine, Level 7 (30 Biopolis Street, Matrix)

Speaker: Dr. Samuel Jones, Dame Kathleen Ollerenshaw Fellow, School of Materials, University of Manchester, UK


There are millions of people that die of viral diseases (VDs) annually, rotavirus (diarrhoea) kills 1.8 million, HIV 2.5 million, and there are many more examples. The list is long and could become longer if new highly infective and/or deadly viruses continue to emerge (e.g. recent cases of Ebola, H1N1, or Zika). The best way to fight VDs is to develop and use vaccines. In a world of rapidly mutating viruses, vaccines alone might not always be the answer. Antiviral drugs, which act by disrupting intracellular pathways used by viruses to replicate, are often prescribed to aid the immune systems fight against an infection. Current antiviral therapeutics consist of small molecules, oligonucleotides, or proteins able to stimulate the immune response (e.g. interferon) and focus on only a few viruses. Antiviral treatments are lacking for the majority of viruses. Current drugs that are active against viruses outside of the cell environment are typically natural or synthetic polymers. Such materials work via a virustatic mechanism. That is to say that they reversibly bind to a virus, stopping virus/cell binding. The reversible nature of this interaction, without modifying the viral capsid, is medically limited but often such materials display broad-spectrum properties. Extracellular inhibition of viral infectivity via an irreversible mechanism is what defines virucidal materials. A virucidal mechanism has also been suggested to completely stop the virus from being able to develop resistance, a key problem with most current antimicrobials. There is vast literature on many virucidal materials ranging from simple detergents, to strong acids, and nanoparticles in some cases capable of releasing ions. For example, virucidal properties are common in sterilising solutions, for the cleaning of medical equipment or other surfaces that may have come in contact with viruses. In all of these cases, the approaches used to irreversibly inhibit the virus have intrinsic cellular toxicity. The challenge is to find virucidal materials/molecules that have minimal side effects on the host, and are thus able to act as virucidal drugs ideally in a broad-spectrum manner.

In this talk I will introduce in more detail the concepts of extracellular antivirals and give three examples of newly synthesised materials that display broad-spectrum virucidal properties whilst remaining fully biocompatible.

About The Speaker
Sam's current research interests focus around material/virus interactions. By understanding and controlling such interactions the group hopes to develop better antivirals, vaccine stabilisers and novel viral vector delivery applications.

Sam completed his masters in Chemistry, from the University of Warwick, under the direction of Prof. Stefan A. F. Bon in 2009. His work at the time focused on hydrogen bonding interactions for gold nanorod assembly. From there he moved to the University of Cambridge where he worked in the Melville Laboratory for Polymer Synthesis under Prof. Oren A. Scherman, on the supramolecular assembly of nanomaterials via cucurbit[n]uril. Upon completion of his Ph.D. in 2013, Sam moved to the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) where he worked alongside Prof. Francesco Stellacci. His research focused on the synthesis of novel virucidal materials and the synthesis of Janus nanoparticles for targeted delivery. In 2017 he moved to the School of Materials at the University of Manchester to begin his independent career as a Dame Kathleen Ollerenshaw Fellow. Sam's groups research focuses on virus/material interactions.

Dr. Samuel Gan, Principal Investigator

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