EU-Funding for a Net to trap Viruses

Research Group Leader at the MPI of Biochemistry coordinates Europe-wide Research Project

The ERA-NET programs of the European Commission aim to better coordinate pan-European research funding and to bundle the continent’s scientific expertise. A project which is overseen by Andreas Pichlmair at the Max Planck Institute (MPI) of Biochemistry in Martinsried near Munich (Germany) now receives one of the coveted grants supporting the researchers with more than two million Euros. The multinational team aims to identify evolutionary conserved defense mechanisms against viruses. Hereby, the researchers hope to discover candidate mechanisms that can be used for antiviral therapeutic interventions in the future.

Global mass migrations or the excessive use of antibiotics and the resulting resistances cause an increasingly rapid spread of new infectious diseases or of such illnesses that have already been considered overcome. In order to deal with this threat, the program “Infect-ERA” of the European Commission brings together projects from basic, applied and clinical research in order to decrypt the underlying mechanisms of infectious diseases. As of May 2015, the project ERASE (evaluating viral RNA/DNA-bound proteins across species) will be part of this initiative. The cooperation consisting of scientists from Denmark, France, Austria and Germany was selected together with seven others out of 118 applications. The coordinator is Andreas Pichlmair, a Research Group Leader at the MPI of Biochemistry.

The scientists are interested in the defense strategies against viruses: the main objective will be to predict new candidates for therapeutic substances. In particular, they will be looking for proteins that have already proven themselves effective in the defense against viruses during evolution. With the help of mass spectrometry, it is first intended to identify proteins in different organisms which recognize and bind viral genetic material. Subsequently, the respective proteins will be tested in other organisms with regard to their effectiveness. This approach aims to both clarify the evolutionary relationships of the virus defense systems and to verify the potential of new candidates for drug development.

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