Viruses are tiny particles that can thrive inside an organism and cause deadly diseases. These viruses can be found throughout a person’s daily life and attack at any given moment. There is a very large number of known viruses and they represent only a small fraction of all the viruses that exist. These viruses are extremely difficult to treat due to their unique shape, unique mechanism of action, and constant ability to mutate. Just as a cure is developed for a given disease the virus may mutate and require a completely different treatment. The Covid-19 pandemic showed the extreme difficulty in developing an anti-viral drug that is generic enough for a virus that is constantly changing.
“Currently, there are no efficient, validated platforms for rapidly generating anti-viral drugs,” says ViroBlock CEO and Founder Isaiah (Shy) Arkin, who is also an HU professor of biological chemistry at the Alexander Silberman Institute of Life Sciences. “Scientists must develop new agents and a customized approach to target every new virus, without the ability to predict how that virus will develop resistance. ViroBlock is working on a promising drug candidate for COVID-19 using an approach that can be duplicated with most other important viruses.”
ViroBlock used its technology platform to demonstrate the potential to treat current and emerging viral threats including Hepatitis B, West Nile, ZIka, Influenza, and Covid-19 variants with a single drug. ViroBlock identified channel blockers that could protect cells from viral-induced death while lowering the amount of viral progeny significantly.
“With our propriety technology, ViroBlock can identify targets in a new viral threat (or variant), develop inhibitors against it, and determine the resistance potential of the virus against the new drug, all at an unprecedented pace,” CEO and Founder Isaiah Arkin says.
The antiviral drug candidate works by targeting and exploiting a vulnerability in the virus-ion channels. These two critical components in the virus: the 3a protein and the E(envelope) protein are required to regulate its acidity and salinity. Therefore, inhibiting these ion channels will stop the virus’s ability to mutate and infect cells. The E protein is a small integral membrane protein that functions as an ion channel and is expressed by all SARS-CoV-2 viruses. Its structure lends it to be a common target for pharmaceutical point intervention. The E proteins of Sars-Cov-1 and Sars-Cov-2 are 95% identical compared to their spike proteins which are only 75% identical. This creates a great target that will cause ViroBlock’s anti-viral drug to remain effective throughout the cycle of a virus’s many mutations.
The next phase of clinical trials will test the efficacy of this anti-viral approach for humans. The company also has many drugs in the pipeline, using the same mechanism, that will be effective against other viruses.
ViroBlock was founded in 2020 by Isaiah Arkin, who is a Hebrew University professor of biological chemistry at the Alexander Silberman Institute of Life Sciences. ViroBLock is a private company that has sprouted out of Yissum, the Hebrew University technology transfer company. ViroBlock is founded by Integra holdings, the Ventura Capital arm of Yissum, in addition to two private individuals. Dr. Isaiah Arkin’s work is based on more than two decades of research on proteins found in viruses.
“Covid has reminded us that we’re still at the mercy of viral pandemics. We need to develop a rapid and comprehensive approach to leading antiviral drugs”, CEO and Founder Isaiah Arkin says.
ViroBlock has completed animal trials on their Covid candidate and has shown promising results. They’ve additionally completed in-vitro trials on the influenza candidate again with promising results. Developing anti-viral drugs is slightly more challenging than other drugs because one needs access to a particular infrastructure including a bio-safety level 3 facility in order to make sure no one gets infected with the viruses. The facilities are in short supply but fortunately, the Hebrew University has just recently opened its second facility to investigate anti-viral drugs in animals so the pace of ViroBlock is excitingly expected to pick up. The predictive power of animal trials in antivirals is much higher in infectious diseases than in metabolic diseases due to the fact that in animals, you’re targeting the exact same virus that appears in humans.
For more information please contact: arkin AT savion.huji.ac.il
Yissum is the technology transfer company of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Founded in 1964, it serves as a bridge between cutting-edge academic research and a global community of entrepreneurs, investors, and industry. Yissum’s mission is to benefit society by converting extraordinary innovations and transformational technologies into commercial solutions that address our most urgent global challenges. Yissum has registered over 10,750+ patents globally; licensed over 1050+ technologies and has spun out more than 170 companies. Yissum’s business partners span the globe and include companies such as Boston Scientific, Google, ICL, Intel, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Microsoft, Novartis and many more. For further information please visit www.yissum.co.il
Press Contact: Estee Yaari, estee at yissum.co.il
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