Seminar by Nam-Joon Cho

SME 248 - Cymer Conference Center
Engineering Broad-Spectrum Virucidal Drugs to Target Enveloped Viruses 
Dr. Nam-Joon Cho
Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
Viral infections are a leading cause of global morbidity and mortality that urgently need effective therapeutic strategies. While there have been important advances in antiviral drug development over the past few decades, there remain major challenges associated with the large number of emerging and re-emerging virus strains as well as with the rise of drug-resistant virus strains. One promising solution is the development of virucidal agents that target the lipid envelope surrounding a wide range of viruses including hepatitis C, HIV, influenza, and dengue. Unlike other antiviral targets, the lipid envelope is derived from host cell membranes and there is a high barrier to the evolution of resistant virus strains. In this talk, I will present ongoing work to develop a membrane-active peptide that exhibits broad-spectrum virucidal activity by selectively destabilizing lipid membranes with nanometer-scale curvature. The lead drug candidate exhibits highly potent in vitro virucidal activity against multiple virus families and has a good therapeutic index (>15). In vivo experiments in a humanized mouse model for dengue infection demonstrate that treatment with the drug candidate significantly reduces viral titer in the bloodstream down to levels comparable to leading monoclonal antibodies. The findings support that membrane-active virucidal agents hold significant promise for treating viral infections and warrant further drug development efforts.
Nam-Joon Cho is Nanyang Associate Professor in the School of Materials Science and Engineering at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore and Deputy Director of the Nanyang Institute of Technology in Health and Medicine. In addition, he is a Principal Investigator at the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology. His group’s research focuses on engineering approaches to solve human health problems and to translate these capabilities into practical applications for global health. Dr. Cho’s scientific work has been highlighted by international media organizations such as Reuters, CNBC, and Businessweek, and is leading to major breakthroughs for the treatment of deadly pathogens. He has identified novel classes of antiviral drugs to treat hepatitis C and dengue virus infections. Dr. Cho’s team is now actively working to examine the causes and consequences of infectious diseases in order to provide improved diagnostic and therapeutic interventions. Dr. Cho also leads a multi-institution tissue engineering collaboration involving NTU and the Stanford University School of Medicine, which focuses on developing an artificial liver platform for regenerative medicine applications. He is a graduate of Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley.                                                                     

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