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ULM, LSU drug study shows promise against COVID-19

Published April 30, 2020

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BATON ROUGE — During a lecture on the Molecular & Cell Biology and Immunopathogenesis of coronaviruses attended virtually by more than 125 people, Konstantin “Gus” Kousoulas, Ph.D., head of the Department of Pathobiological Sciences at the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine, revealed that the drug Nelfinavir mesylate (NFV, brand name Viracept), holds exceptional promise in limiting COVID-19 infections. Viracept was developed as a protease inhibitor in the treatment of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

Seetharama D. Jois, Ph.D.

 The work revealed that Viracept inhibited the ability of a key protein of the virus, the Spike Glycoprotein that protrudes from the surface of the virus and is also found on the surface of infected cells, to facilitate membrane fusion of adjacent cells.

Membrane fusion is crucial for virus entry into cells and spread of the virus from one cell to adjacent cells escaping the extracellular spaces and neutralizing antibodies. Viracept was able to inhibit membrane fusion at levels that are typically used in human patients to combat Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) infections.

Molecular modeling by Professor of Pharmacy Seetharama D. Jois, Ph.D., and graduate student Achyut Dahal, both with the University of Louisiana Monroe College of Pharmacy, showed that Viracept may directly bind to the viral S glycoprotein.

These results strongly suggest that Viracept should be investigated for ability to prevent virus spread especially during early stages of SARS-2 CoV infections. Also contributing to this work with Dr. Kousoulas and colleagues Vladimir Chouljenko, Farhana Musarrat and Rafiq Nabi.

ULM is a member institution of the Louisiana Biomedical Research Network supported by the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of General Medical Sciences, IDeA Nttwork of Biomedical Research program. LSU’s INBRE, named the Louisiana Biomedical Research Network was established in September 2001 with a $18.5 million grant matched by a $1.2 million supplement from the Board of Regents. This grant has been renewed every five years since 2001. LBRN provides infrastructure support, education, training, and research opportunities for students and faculty at primarily undergraduate institutions and fosters connections of primarily undergraduate institutions (PUIs) with biomedical research intensive universities and institutes within the state. Dr. Kousoulas is the Principal Investigator for LSU’s LBRN.

For more information, contact Hope Young, ULM Office of Marketing and Communications, 318-342-5445, hyoung@ulm.edu. For information from LSU, contact Ginger Guttner, LSU School of Veterinary Medicine, 225-578-9922 office, ginger@lsu.edu.