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Antiviral agents

SALP Peptides are potent broad-spectrum antiviral agents


Dr. Torsten Stachelhaus, Ascenion,


Viral infections are a major threat for human health. The dimension becomes clear by the number of infected people and associated diseases. For example, an estimated 2 million people are living with HIV, the retrovirus causing AIDS, and 2.9 million people died of AIDS-related illnesses in 2006 (source: WHO). The majority of currently available antiretroviral drugs targets a virus specific enzyme or molecule and thus has a narrow activity spectrum. In the light of increasing numbers of multiple virus infections and the occurrence of viral strains being resistant to established antiviral treatment there is a pressing need for the development of antiviral agents that are active against a broad spectrum of human pathogenic viruses.

This medical need is met by Synthetic Antimicrobial and LPS-Neutralizing Peptides (SALPs) which efficiently inhibit infections of a broad variety of viruses. So far, the potent inhibition of infections with HIV1, HSV1, HSV2, HBV, HCV and Influenza virus has been shown. Based on the insight of comprehensive biophysical studies of natural occurring antimicrobial proteins SALPs were originally developed to neutralize lipopolysaccharides of the outer membrane of Gram-negative bacteria. It turned out that these peptides are also potent antivirals: SALPs bind to heparan sulfate moieties on the surface of the host cell which serve as docking molecules for a variety of enveloped viruses. Thus SALPs inhibit the attachment of viruses to host cells and act as a new class of potent antiviral agents.

Developmental Status
Toxicity of new SALPs was tested in vitro using a variety of human cells. GLP compliant in vivo tests are ongoing. So far no toxicity has been observed in therapeutically relevant concentrations. Antiviral activity was determined in vitro: human reporter cell lines were preincubated with SALPs and infected with virus isolates. SALPs lead to a total inhibition of viral multiplication at low concentrations. For influenza, also in vivo data are available.
In addition, the potency of SALPs was tested to prevent or treat sepsis. LPS-neutralizing activity was tested in vitro (cytokine secretion of human mononuclear cells) and in vivo. The results from two different murine models for endotoxic shock prove that SALP peptides efficiently neutralize LPS in vivo.
Patent Situation
A priority establishing European patent application has been filed in 2008. In the extended European search report novelty and inventive step are acknowledged for the claims. In 2010 European, US and Japanese patent applications have been filed.



The new SALPs are offered for in-licensing or co-development.



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