Dr. Denys Khaperskyy
Targeting the flu:
Dr. Denys Khaperskyy seeks new targets for fighting the flu
Despite the advent of flu vaccines and antivirals, the influenza virus continues to infect and kill tens of thousands of people around the world every year.
"The flu vaccine has to be updated every year and sometimes is only partially effective, especially for immunocompromised individuals, who may not respond to it," notes Dr. Denys Khaperskyy, an influenza researcher and assistant professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Dalhousie Medical School. "And we have only one antiviral in Canada, Tamiflu, which is rarely able to be administered at early-enough stages of the illness to be very effective."
As Dr. Khaperskyy notes: "If a new pandemic strain of influenza develops resistance to Tamiflu, we are defenseless."
That's why Dr. Khaperskyy wants to find targets for a new generation of much more effective anti-influenza treatments. He and his colleagues, including Dr. Craig McCormick, are studying how the flu virus exploits human cells to thrive. They want to identify which proteins encoded by human genes complement influenza virus genes and support the virus's ability to survive and replicate inside cells, and go on to infect even more cells.
Sophisticated new mass spectrometry equipment to be purchased through Dalhousie Medical Research Foundations Fall 2019 Molly Appeal will accelerate Dr. Khaperskyy's progress.
"The new equipment will allow us to compare the protein interactions in infected cells with those in uninfected cells," he notes. "From there, we can pinpoint which cellular proteins the virus absolutely relies on to survive, and which of these we can target with new therapies without disrupting healthy cells."
Once Dr. Khaperskyy and his team have identified viable targets, they will pass o the torch to colleagues in medicinal chemistry and pharmacology. " It requires a different set of skills and equipment to produce the molecules that will inhibit protein-protein interactions the virus relies on," he says. "My mission is to find the targets."