New Israeli nanotech targets a virus’s Achilles heel

Published on Wednesday, 28 November 2012 by Webmaster

New Israeli nanotech targets a virus’s Achilles heel
As the Ebola virus rears its ugly head again in Uganda, it’s just a matter of time until this or another deadly virus strikes humanity in epic proportions. An Israeli company hopes to have a new kind of arsenal prepared so that the next big viral war will be an offensive, and not a defensive action. The solution is a nanotechnology scaffold loaded with a chemist’s bag of tools to work as a smart microscopic trap for viruses.

“Viruses are one of the biggest threats to humankind,” says Erez Livneh, the CEO and founder of Vecoy Nanomedicines, the Israeli company that has developed this new weapon to fight viruses. “A viral pandemic could be more damaging to people than global warming. With overpopulation and international flights –– it’s just a matter of time. We’d like to be in a situation where we can do something about it.”

Unlike anti-viral injections or drugs that are licensed and on the market, Vecoy is taking a whole new approach to defeating viruses.

Livneh and his five-person team of biologists and chemists engineered a new nano-scale trapping complex of molecules that dares to outwit viruses – by mimicking human cells, luring them to invade a false target and disarming them in the process.

"Every virus has this weak point and it is one element that an ever-changing virus cannot change," says Livneh, likening this to an Achilles heel. "We target the recognition site to the host site, which attaches to a human cell like a lock and key. If I can change this site the virus will be locked, and will commit suicide. Complete annihilation."

This is not only a novel medical approach, it also addresses one of the largest challenges when it comes to viruses, because they cannot adapt and develop resistance to Vecoy as they do to anti-viral drugs.

"Every virus, even an ever-changing adaptive one, has a weak point and it is the one element that cannot be changed," explains Livneh. "A virus specifically attaches to a cell like a key to a lock. We present the virus with similar decoy targets, leaving it with two choices: either to be susceptible to the Vecoy traps or to mutate so it will be indifferent to the traps -- but then it remains locked outside of the patient's cells, which it can no longer penetrate. This is bad news for the virus on both accounts."

This new type of anti-viral strategy, based on a completely new way of thinking, could work to target the world's deadliest viruses, such as HIV, hepatitis B and C and Ebola, as well as others such as the human papillomavirus (HPV) and herpes.

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