Francesco Stellacci, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne
Using Materials Science Concepts to Design New Drugs
Viral diseases kill millions of people every year, mostly in developing countries. We need efficient drugs to fight them when vaccines fail. To date, only a handful of antivirals have been developed. I will show that it is possible to use Materials Science concepts to design a whole new class of antiviral drugs. Viruses can be viewed as the self-assembly of many biological components. It is possible to design nanoparticles, macromolecules, and simple molecules that target specific parts of the viruses (the viral attachment ligands). I will show that, in these materials, the presence of long hydrophobic, flexible arms induces irreversible damages to the self-assembled virions upon binding, rendering them non-infective permanently. The design principle underlying this effect is the hydrophobic contact between the drugs and the virions that results in a locally applied pressure. Results in vitro, ex-, and in-vivo against a number of viruses will be discussed.