Research will focus on modulating body’s innate immunity to viral infection.

A collaboration between Kineta, the University of Washington, and the University of Texas Medical Branch has been awarded $8.1 million in funding by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) to develop antiviral drugs against potential biothreat agents as Ebola, plague, and Japanese encephalitis.

Researchers at the University of Washington’s NIH-sponsored Center for the Study of Immune Mechanisms of Virus Control have been working to understand the basis of the body’s innate immunity to virus infection and the intracellular processes and virus-host interactions that control viral replication. The program will build on existing collaborations between Kineta and the University of Washington, including ongoing NIAID-funded research to develop antiviral drugs and vaccine adjuvants.

As part of the latest NIAID partnership, Kineta will lead drug optimization and in vivo pharmacology work, and scientists at the University of Washington will provide additional bioinformatics and systems biology genomics analysis. Collaborators at the University of Texas Medical Branch’s Galveston National Laboratory will oversee research on biosafety level 4 viral agents, including Ebola and Nipah viruses.

“This award enables us to push further and work with more high-priority viruses,” comments University of Washington professor Michael Gale Jr., Ph.D., principal grant investigator. “These diseases are major concerns of the U.S. government for their risk of sparking a pandemic and their potential use as bioterrorist weapons. By utilizing an innate immune pathway we hope to develop better drugs that won’t be outsmarted by viral mutation.”

Established in 2007, Kineta is developing drugs that act at the level of the innate and adaptive immune systems to treat infectious diseases and autoimmune disorders. Its primary target is retinoic acid inducible gene I protein (RIG-1), a key element of the innate immune system. Kineta says it has identified compounds that can influence RIG-1 and trigger natural anti-infection immune responses. The aim is to develop broad-based antiviral products against a range of infectious diseases such as HIV, hepatitis C, influenza, and West Nile Virus, and also exploit the RIG-1 platform to generate vaccine adjuvants. 

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