Dr. Craig McCormick

Dr. Craig McCormick

Dr. Craig McCormick

Inflammation, Infection & Immunity, Cancer, Molly Appeal

Searching for new vaccines and antivirals:
Dr. Craig McCormick takes aim at viruses

Dr. Craig McCormick and his team are pursuing the development of new treatments for common viruses that cause devastating human diseases ranging from life-threatening respiratory illness to cancer.

"Vaccines and antiviral drugs have had a tremendous positive impact on human health over the past century. Vaccines eradicated polio from the face of the earth, and HPV vaccines are dramatically reducing rates of cervical cancer. A new class of antiviral drugs for Hepatitis C virus can cure chronic HCV infection and prevent liver cancer. But many viral infections require improved vaccines and antivirals, including the influenza viruses and cancer-causing herpesviruses that we study in the lab," says Dr. McCormick, a professor in the Department of Microbiology & Immunology at Dalhousie Medical School. "By studying the interactions between these viruses and the human cells they infect, we have opportunities to identify weaknesses in the viruses that we can exploit with new vaccines and antivirals."

Dr. McCormick and his team are eager to use the Orbitrap Fusion Mass Spectrometer to be funded through Dalhousie Medical Research Foundation's 2019-20 Fall Molly Appeal.

"Our research relies heavily on the use of a collection of methods knowns as 'proteomics' to study viral proteins and their effects on human cells. The Orbitrap will give us a close-up look at these proteins and help us determine how they function in the context of infection. With this new informations, we can devise strategies to interfere with processes that the viruses depend on with small molecules that we call 'antivirals'. If these molecules show promise in the lab, they can be further improved by chemical modification, so they are as safe and effective as they can be."

The Orbitrap Fusion Mass Spectrometer can also help Dr. McCormick identify changes in the metabolism of cells infected with viruses, which can provide new opportunities for the development of new medicines and re-purposing of old medicines. "Recently, we learned that KSHV, a cancer-causing herpesvirus, can only replicate in cells that have enough cholesterol to aid assembly of new viruses. With this knowledge, we have started to investigate whether medicines that control cholesterol levels can be re-purposed as antivirals."

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