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Computer-Designed Proteins Programmed to Disarm a Variety of Flu Viruses

UW Today (06/01/12) Leila Gray

University of Washington researchers have demonstrated that proteins found in nature that do not normally bind with the flu can be engineered using computer modeling to act as broad-spectrum antiviral agents against a variety of flu virus strains.  “One of these engineered proteins has a flu-fighting potency that rivals that of several human monoclonal antibodies,” says Washington professor David Baker.  The computer-designed influenza inhibitors are constructed using a computer modeling system to fit perfectly into a specific nano-sized target on flu viruses.  The models can describe the landscapes of forces involved on the submicroscopic scale.  The researchers want to create antivirals that can react against a wide variety of H subtypes, which could lead to a comprehensive therapy for influenza.  The new methods could be “a powerful route to inhibitors or binders for any surface patch on any desired target of interest,” Baker says.  He notes that “we anticipate that our approach combining computational design followed by comprehensive energy landscape mapping will be widely useful in generating high-affinity and high-specificity binders to a broad range of targets for use in therapeutics and diagnostics.”


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