Treatment of drug-resistant influenza: Rationally designed inhibitors of viral neuraminidase

Each year the influenza virus infects approximately 10% of the human population, resulting in hundreds of thousands of deaths. Even in North America, nearly 40,000 annual “excess deaths” are attributed to influenza or to secondary bacterial infections. Despite a World Health Organization-monitored vaccine program, the disease remains a significant global health issue, requiring the use of antiviral drugs like oseltamivir (Tamiflu). A significant problem in controlling the spread of influenza is the emergence of oseltamivir-resistant strains.

To address this problem, Dr. Jeremy Wulff is taking a collaborative approach to develop potent new influenza virus inhibitors. With Professor Martin Boulanger's group at the University of Victoria Department of Biochemistry, Dr. Wulff has developed a new class of antiviral agents that function by a similar mechanism to oseltamivir. His research group is working to further improve the efficacy of these agents through structural and kinetic means. Finally, Dr. Wulff will test the potency of the new anti-influenza compounds in collaboration with Dr. Terrence Tumpey, from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta.

Identifying and developing new drugs to fight oseltamivir-resistant influenza is anticipated to have wide-reaching impacts on global health. In addition to creation of new influenza drugs, Dr. Wulff’s research interests include the development of novel methodologies for the synthesis of complex molecules, and the invention of new kinds of inhibitors that specifically block interactions between certain proteins involved in pancreatic cancer and HIV.