The Werner Siemens Foundation has awarded a CHF 5 million grant to the Supramolecular Nano-Materials and Interfaces Laboratory (SuNMIL), headed by NCCR Bio-Inspired Materials Principal Investigator Francesco Stellacci, at the Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL). His team, which is working on a compound that can block viral activity, hopes to make progress in the fight against SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that has sparked a global pandemic.
“I was delighted when I found out about the grant,” says Stellacci. “It’s even better than I could’ve imagined. The Werner Siemens Foundation has shown itself to be very generous.”
With this grant, Stellacci and his research team can finance the next phase of their research on antiviral drugs. Previous work was funded by the NCCR Bio-Inspired Materials. “Our aim is to find a single drug that can halt the activity of several different viruses,” says Stellacci. “We’ve already developed a treatment that works in vitro to block HIV, HRSV [human respiratory syncytial virus], and the dengue, Zika and herpes viruses. We’ve now added SARS-CoV-2 to our experiments. If our treatment turns out to be safe and effective, it can be used for all those diseases.”
Clinical trials on the horizon
The grant will go towards covering the most expensive stage of the drug development work – clinical trials on animals and then humans. “We will be able to conduct in vivo tests of the efficacy and toxicity of our treatment,” says Stellacci. “Five million francs may seem like a lot, but it will actually cover just one year of trials.” If the findings are conclusive, the new drug could be available on the market in as soon as 18 months.
Original EPFL press release: EPFL lab headed by Francesco Stellacci gets 5 million research grant