BLOOMBERG — A pair of brothers working in laboratories on opposite coasts of the U.S. are brewing a new approach to fighting viruses, one that’s drawn interest from the military for protection against the threat of infections such as Zika and Ebola.
The experimental treatment pursued by Ariel Weinberger, a Harvard University biologist, and Leor Weinberger, a virologist at the University of California at San Francisco-affiliated Gladstone Institutes, deploys a tweaked, safe version of a virus to overwhelm the form that invades and kills cells. While it’s very early — the approach has only been tested in test tubes and animals — the U.S. government is ready to invest in developing the idea and seeing whether similar mutants can protect against other diseases.
Each new outbreak that shakes the globe, whether it’s Zika spreading across the Americas or a new worldwide strain of deadly flu, is a reminder of the difficulty of fighting emerging viruses, many of which evolve quickly to frustrate and evade drugs. In a connected world where diseases spread via air travel, new ways to fight them are vital, said Ariel Weinberger, a member of Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering.
“Diseases transmit — current therapeutics don’t,” he said. “Diseases evolve — current therapeutics don’t. And diseases persist for lifetime and current therapeutics obviously need to be constantly re-administered.”
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