Dr. Craig McCormick

Dr. Craig McCormick

Dr. Craig McCormick

Inflammation, Infection & Immunity, Cancer, Molly Appeal

Searching for new antivirals:
Dr. Craig McCormick takes aim at herpes and influenza

Dr. Craig McCormick and his team are pursuing the development of new antiviral medications for common viruses that come in many strains – herpes and influenza – and cause everything from recurring rashes, to cancer, to life-threatening, respiratory illness.

"To develop highly effective, precision antivirals, we need to know exactly what is happening inside cells as they are being infected by the virus, or as they are successfully resisting the virus," says Dr. Craig McCormick, a professor in the Department of Microbiology & Immunology at Dalhousie Medical School. "This will point the way to new strategies for blocking infection and killing the viruses."

Dr. McCormick and his team are eager to start using the ImageStreamX Mark II, advanced cell-sorting and imaging equipment to be funded through Dalhousie Medical Research Foundation's 2018-19 Fall Molly Appeal.

"Our current equipment allows us to look at groups of cells and see the average of what's happening in a dish," he says. "The ImageStream will allow us to spot that rare event, when something special happens in a single cell that holds the key to understanding a disease process, and to isolate different types of cells. It's very powerful."

Over the past couple of years, Dr. McCormick and his colleagues have recruited new researchers to form one of Canada's strongest influenza research groups. The new equipment will help these researchers learn how cells protect themselves from the flu.

We want to know how the smaller components inside of cells, such as the mitochondria, are involved in mounting the defence," Dr. McCormick explains. "For example, if a cell can make stress granules, the influenza virus can't replicate."

Stress granules are structures that cells rapidly make when they are under stress – such as when they're being attacked by a virus.

"We're looking for drugs that can elicit a stress-granule response... we've identified several lead molecules and we're starting to understand how they work," Dr. McCormick says. "These could be engineered into new antivirals as alternatives to exisiting antivirals like Tamiflu."

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