The Univeristy of Melbourne The Royal Melbourne Hopspital

A joint venture between The University of Melbourne and The Royal Melbourne Hospital


13 Aug 2020

Host cell kinome as a target for treatment of COVID-19

A team of researchers from RMIT and the Doherty Institute have been awarded $100,000 from the Victorian Medical Research Acceleration Fund to help identify new treatments for COVID-19.

This doubles a commitment from the Bio Capital Impact Fund (BCIF) for the project that looks specifically at targeting human hosts, rather than the pathogen itself.

The project will be led by RMIT University Professor Christian Doerig, and supported by a team of Doherty Institute scientists; Royal Melbourne Hospital’s Professor Peter Revill, Professor Kanta Subbarao, Professor Hans Netter and Dr Julian Druce.

It builds on a study by Professor Doerig published in Nature Communications that demonstrated parasites that cause malaria are heavily dependent on enzymes in red blood cells, where the parasites hide and proliferate.

It also revealed that drugs developed for cancer, and which inactivate these human enzymes, known as protein kinases, are highly effective in killing the parasite and represent an alternative to drugs that target the parasite itself.

“By targeting the host and not the pathogen itself, we remove the possibility for the pathogen to rapidly become resistant by mutating the target of the drug, as the target is made by the human host and not by the pathogen,” Professor Doerig said.

Professor Revill said he and the team were delighted to be part of the project that will focus on investigating treatments for COVID-19.

“This important study will identify host cell kinases modulated by SARS-CoV-2 infection, to identify antiviral compounds that specifically inhibit SARS-CoV-2 - host factor interactions, which are essential for virus replication,” Professor Revill said.

“This approach has proven successful for other human pathogens including malaria, dengue and hepatitis C virus and will make an important contribution to our efforts to defeat the CoVID-19 pandemic.”