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Stapled ACE2 alpha-helical peptides as SARS-CoV-2 spike protein blockers and virus entry inhibitors

Distinguished Professor Dame Margaret Brimble, University of Auckland, School of Chemical Sciences & Dr Alan Cameron, University of Auckland, School of Biological Sciences

With an urgent global need for research surrounding treatment for the Covid-19 virus, Distinguished Professor Dame Margaret Brimble and Dr Alan Cameron have undertaken the challenge of investigating whether existing patents for chemical manufacturing technology could be used to develop an effective anti-viral treatment for Covid-19.

“We already hold patents for the chemical manufacturing technology we plan to use and have an excellent opportunity to put New Zealand research in the global spotlight by contributing towards the worldwide efforts against the Covid-19 pandemic.” said Distinguished Professor Dame Brimble.

“The global Covid-19 pandemic poses a significant threat to New Zealand from both its impact on the health of our citizens and our economy. Even if New Zealand successfully manages to avert the crisis through government enforced lockdown procedures, the country remains at significant threat from emergence of a second wave of outbreaks, as the virus continues to run rampant globally.

While Distinguished Professor Dame Brimble acknowledges that vaccine development is essential she also recognises how long these efforts could take with current predictions of at least 18 months, along with the additional time needed to gain herd immunity through invocation of the global and New Zealand population. For both Brimble and Cameron, they believe effective antiviral treatment options are essential for the health and well-being of New Zealanders, particularly for the most at risk demographics.

“We have initiated a plan to tackle this global health crisis using novel chemical manufacturing approaches that were developed and patented in New Zealand by the Brimble Peptide Research laboratory. Our research will focus on the discovery of a novel antiviral agent to treat Covid-19 infection by blocking one of the key mechanisms by which the SARS-CoV-2 virus enters its human host cells.

“Employing synthetic chemistry, computer-aided drug design and biological evaluations, we will develop constrained or “stapled” peptides using our proprietary chemical methods, which block this key interaction between, thereby preventing further viral infection cycles in the body.

“The antiviral drug candidates provided will contribute towards the global response to Covid-19 by providing a new-class of potential therapeutic agents and essential knowledge about the interactions of this novel pathogen with its host.”

Distinguished Professor Dame Margaret Brimble is a professor at the University of Auckland and highly recognised as one of New Zealand’s most outstanding researchers. In 2019 she was named a Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for Service to Science, and she is a fellow of both the Royal Society of New Zealand and the Royal Society of Chemistry. Distinguished Professor Dame Brimble was the first New Zealander to receive the L'Oreal-UNESCO Award for Women in Science, and the second woman to receive the Rutherford medal.

Dr Alan Cameron is a research fellow with the University of Auckland.

AMRF have awarded Distinguished Professor Dame Brimble and Doctor Cameron $96,457 of funding to support this project.

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