University of Utah – Michael Kay

Open Philanthropy has awarded a grant of USD 385,000 to support henipavirus antiviral research

There is an urgent need to prepare for future pandemics by developing ready-to-deploy low-cost antivirals. In the supported project “Targeting Henipavirus Fusion Proteins with a Broadly Active Antiviral D-peptide Entry Inhibitor”, the research groups of Michael Kay and collaborator Debra M. Eckert, both from the University of Utah, aim to identify D-peptides that target the Nipah and Hendra F fusion protein, thereby blocking viral entry into the cells. D-peptides, which are made of mirror-image D-amino acids, are not digested by proteases — and therefore possess therapeutic advantages including long half-life, low dosing, low immunogenicity, and durability in protease-rich tissues. These advantages facilitate administration of low-cost depot-formulated D-peptides for viral prevention and treatment. The project will run for 18 months starting in late 2022.