On April 21, Ulrike Protzer, director of the Institute of Virology, and Andreas Pichlmair, Professor of Viral Immunopathology, will give the Covid-19 Lecture on virus-host interaction. Ahead of the event, Prof. Protzer explains in this interview how effective current antiviral therapies are against Covid-19 and how the development of additional drugs is progressing.
What antiviral therapies against Covid-19 are currently available - and how effective are they?
Unfortunately, there are only very few therapies against Covid-19 so far. One has to distinguish between two fundamentally different therapeutic approaches: On the one hand, therapies that suppress inflammatory reactions in the body; they aim to reduce so-called immunopathogenesis, such as cortisone or antibodies against the cytokine IL-6 - here, a certain effectiveness has been shown in clinical studies. On the other hand, there are therapies with a direct antiviral effect, which prevent the virus from multiplying and spreading. Unfortunately, there is not yet a drug that shows convincing efficacy in this area. But since these therapies have brought therapeutic breakthroughs in most viral diseases, it is very important to work on them.
In your view, how quickly is development progressing?
Directly antivirally effective drugs can only be developed if we understand the virus very well and know its essential enzymes, which we can "attack" as the Achilles’ heel of the virus. To this end, Prof. Andreas Pichlmair’s group has conducted what is probably the most comprehensive analysis worldwide to date. An alternative strategy is to use already known elements, such as the viral receptor, as an approach to antiviral therapy. That’s what my group has done, developing a direct viral inhibitor, in collaboration with biochemists and medicinal chemists.
What will the future hold - and more importantly, when?
Unlike vaccine development, you can’t simply start with genetic information here. In addition, research funding for vaccine development has also been significantly higher compared to antiviral drug development. A whole series of antivirally active drugs are now in the development pipeline, and we very much hope that we will soon be able to report successes similar to those in the development of vaccines.
Live stream ,,Die Virus-Wirt-Interaktion oder wie man die Achilles-Ferse des Virus für neue antivirale Therapien nutzen kann" on April 14. 6:15 p.m.
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