Fighting flu

Thursday 8 January 2009

St Andrews’ scientists have made a breakthrough in the search for potential new treatments for influenza.

Researchers at the Centre for Biomolecular Sciences have engineered novel proteins designed to combat the disease.

The proteins are designed to mask the sugar molecules in the respiratory tract that viruses such as the influenza virus need to bind to in order to cause an infection.

Professor Garry Taylor and postdoctoral research fellow, Dr Helen Connaris have been awarded £150,000 by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council to develop novel therapeutics for the treatment of respiratory diseases such as influenza.

Professor Taylor explained, “The influenza virus continues to be a major problem as evidenced by the recent outbreaks in the UK, and there is the constant threat of a major pandemic.

“Vaccines provide good protection against currently circulating strains of influenza, but are not effective in giving protection against a completely new strain that may arise.

“There are two drugs currently used for the treatment of influenza, but the virus has already become resistant to one of these.”

The innovative approach being taken by the St Andrews team targets the host rather than the virus: if the virus is unable to bind to receptors on the cells in the respiratory tract, then it will be unable to enter cells, multiply and cause disease.

The research is in its early stages, and the funding is under the BBSRC’s Follow-on Funding scheme that helps convert an idea into a robust business plan.

The work will involve collaborations with virologists at the World Health Organisation Centre for Influenza Viruses, St Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Memphis as well as with researchers at Edinburgh University.



Professor Garry Taylor is available for interview on Tel: 01334 467301 or E-mail: [email protected]



The image shows a molecular model of one of the engineered proteins binding to sugar molecules normally recognized by the influenza virus.

Issued by the Press Office, University of St Andrews
Contact Fiona Armstrong, Press Officer on 01334 462530 / 462529, Mobile: 07730 415 015 or Email: [email protected]
Ref:  Flu 08/01/09
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