VolkswagenStiftung supports corona research in Dortmund

VolkswagenStiftung supports corona research in Dortmund

Dr. Peng Wu receives research funding of approximately 120,000 euros for the development of innovative anti-corona therapeutics

February 10, 2021

As part of the "Corona Crisis and Beyond" initiative, the VolkswagenStiftung is funding the corona research of Dr. Peng Wu, group leader at the Chemical Genomics Centre of the Max Planck Society in Dortmund. His project is one among only 18 projects coming from natural sciences selected out of more than 1,100 applications to receive funding. The goal of Peng Wu’s corona research at the CGC is to develop novel agents that will activate the body's own immune defense to fight the coronavirus.

The novel coronavirus has posed enormous challenges to society. Great hope lies in the development of new vaccines and antiviral therapies. Despite intensive efforts by the pharmaceutical industry, no effective therapeutics have yet been developed to treat COVID-19. Already available drugs like remdesivir did only show a minor effect in healing and recovering coronavirus patients. Remdesivir fights the virus by inhibiting a key enzyme required for virus replication, and other investigational therapeutics function by preventing viral proteins from binding to the cells and thus the entry of viral particles into the cell.

Boosting the immune system

Peng Wu has now found a new starting point for the development of an innovative antiviral therapy. With the targeted activation of a cellular defense mechanism, the body's own immune response is to be strengthened in order to stop the multiplication of viruses in the body.

A virus spreads by first introducing its genetic information stored in RNA into the cells, where it is replicated. With this information, new virus particles are formed and released. But the cells can defend themselves: As part of the innate immune response, special enzymes, so called antiviral effectors such as OAS and RNase L, are produced upon viral infection. They recognize and destroy the foreign virus RNA. In the case of a coronavirus infection, however, the immune system is severely weakened and the virus defense is only partially functional.

With the help of the approved research funds, the scientists led by Peng Wu want to identify active substances that activate the antiviral defense mechanism and thus boost the immune defense. "Developing therapeutics that can activate and support the immune system will not only help us to better understand the pathology of coronavirus diseases, but also provide new insights into how the immune system works," says Peng Wu.

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