FNP Program Winners Co-Create a Substance to Fight the Coronavirus

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Scientists from the Lesser Poland Center of Biotechnology of the Jagiellonian University (led by Prof. Krzysztof Pyrć and Dr. Aleksandra Milewska) and the Jagiellonian University Faculty of Chemistry (guided by Prof. Maria Nowakowska and Prof. Krzysztof Sztubiałka) announced that their polymerization inhibitors have a strong inhibitory effect on the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus infection and its no less dangerous cousin, MERS-CoV.

In their work, the researchers used not only a standard cellular model but also an advanced system that imitates a fully differentiated epithelium of the human respiratory system (ALI cultures), which is one of the most advanced models to analyze infection in the natural environment of the human body.

The scientists demonstrated that the polymer compounds (HTCC) which they created on the basis of chitosan can effectively inhibit an infection with new coronaviruses. They showed that the polymer binds to the Spike protein, which creates the “crown” that gives coronaviruses their name, thus blocking the protein’s interaction with the cellular receptor and the virus’s ability to penetrate into the cell.

HTCC is currently not approved for human use, so the researchers still have a lot of work to do. However, earlier experiments show that preliminary research on rodents indicated no toxicity or deterioration in pulmonary function. The scientists believe these results to be a promising first step on the way to develop a drug against the coronavirus.

The report showing HTCC’s antiviral activity is available on the open-source Biorxiv platform. The study was conducted in collaboration with scientists from the University of Gdansk, the Silesian Center for Heart Diseases, and Chinese research teams.

Winners of Foundation for Polish Science (FNP) programs who were involved in this discovery include Prof. Krzysztof Pyrć, holder of the START Program scholarship and winner of the POWROTY/HOMING* Program, and Prof. Maria Nowakowska, winner of the TEAM POIG** Program and member of the Foundation for Polish Science Council.

*This program co-financed from Norwegian funds.

*This program is co-financed by the European Union under the European Regional Development Fund.

Source: Jagiellonian University

prof. Krzysztof Pyrć / photo: Adam Koprowski UJ