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FightAIDS@Home Has a New Tool and a New Teammate
By: Dr. Arthur Olson
Professor, The Scripps Research Institute
9 Feb 2018   

Summary
The FightAIDS@Home project is searching for possible compounds to target the protein shell inside HIV (called the capsid core), which protects the viral RNA. Currently, there are no approved drugs that target this protein shell. In this update, Dr. Olson summarizes the team’s progress to-date, describes a new software tool that will help their work, and introduces us to a new research team member.

The HIV-1 capsid (CA) protein structure is shown above. The FightAIDS@Home team is searching for active compounds which could attach to the CA proteins and mediate the assembly of the capsid core.

Examining HIV Capsid

Our latest research in HIV drug discovery has been examining HIV capsid, a new protein target for developing HIV antivirals that can reduce the chance of drug resistance in infected individuals under treatment. Dr. Pierrick Craveur has run extensive virtual screens against four promising sites on this essential viral protein that is necessary for infection. He completed the submission of over 600 million docking runs using a library of over 1.5 million available chemical compounds against over 30 variations of these four target sites.

Most of the results from FAAH volunteers have now been received and we are now in the process of experimentally evaluating 30 of the most promising compounds against the first two of the capsid sites. Thus, we have finished the FightAIDS@Home computational part of this work. 

New Filtering Tool

In addition to his virtual screening efforts, Dr. Craveur has developed a web-based tool that enables us to easily filter these millions of docking results to find compounds that have specific chemical and energetic binding characteristics that may make them promising as new drug candidates. This tool was used to identify those initial 30 compounds, which will be ordered and tested in biological assays.

Dr. Craveur has now completed his postdoctoral training here at Scripps, and he has returned to his native France to work in the biotech industry. He will continue to collaborate with the Olson group in writing up the groundbreaking research that he accomplished while here.

New Research Team Member

In the meantime, we have accepted a new postdoctoral researcher into our laboratory: Dr. Giulia Bianco, from Sardinia, Italy. She will be joining our group in early March to continue with our HIV drug discovery program. She will initially evaluate the virtual screens that Dr. Craveur completed to find new promising candidates from the two other sites that were explored by FightAIDS@Home. She will also continue our Phase I FightAIDS@Home project, which will most likely target Integrase, another promising HIV target. Research from our HIVE Center showed that this target to have an unexpected new and important function in the viral life cycle. 

We anticipate a hiatus of about four months while Dr. Bianco evaluates the existing FAAH results and ramps up to re-start Phase I of our virtual screening work.

Thank you to everyone who has supported FightAIDS@Home. We’ll be in touch when we begin the next stage of the project. 




Project Update

Dr. Arthur Olson
Professor, The Scripps Research Institute