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Health and Medicine science fair project:
Computer-aided Discovery of Novel Influenza Endonuclease Inhibitors to Combat Flu Pandemic

Science Fair Project Information
Title: Computer-aided Discovery of Novel Influenza Endonuclease Inhibitors to Combat Flu Pandemic
Subject: Health and Medicine
Subcategory: Virology
Grade level: High School / College - Grades 10-16
Academic Level: Advanced
Project Type: Experimental
Cost: High
Awards: 17-18 age category Grand Prize Winner
Affiliation: Google Science Fair
Year: 2013
Equipment, Materials and Techniques: Computer pharmacophore models, fluorescence-based assay, molecular dynamics simulations, solvent mapping
Concepts: influenza endonuclease inhibitors
Description: The emergence of new highly lethal influenza viruses such as H5N1 and H7N9 poses a grave threat to the world. This project is to discover novel influenza endonuclease inhibitors as leads for a new type of anti-flu medicine, effective against all influenza viruses including pandemic strains. By combining computer modeling and biological studies, were identified a number of novel, potent endonuclease inhibitors. There also were performed comprehensive structural analysis, laying ground work for further design and optimization of the anti-flu drug candidates. Computer pharmacophore models were built and used for virtual screening of compound libraries. A fluorescence-based assay was set up to validate virtual screening hits as endonuclease inhibitors. In parallel, molecular dynamics simulations and solvent mapping of the endonuclease were performed to construct a comprehensive database of binding pockets and druggable hot spots.
Link: https://www.googlesciencefair.com/en/projects/ahJzfnNjaWV
Short Background

Influenza Research

Influenza research involves investigating molecular virology, pathogenesis, host immune responses, genomics, and epidemiology regarding influenza. The main goal of research is to develop influenza countermeasures such as vaccines, therapies and diagnostic tools.

The potential H5N1 pandemic has motivated a huge increase in flu research. At least 12 companies and 17 governments are developing pre-pandemic influenza vaccines in 28 different clinical trials that, if successful, could turn a deadly pandemic infection into a nondeadly pandemic infection. A vaccine that could prevent any illness at all from the not-yet-existing pandemic influenza strain will take at least three months from the virus's emergence until full-scale vaccine production could begin; with vaccine production hoped to increase until one billion doses are produced by one year after the virus is first identified.

Improved influenza countermeasures require basic research on how viruses enter cells, replicate, mutate, evolve into new strains and induce an immune response. Solutions to limitations in current vaccine methods are being researched.

The Influenza Genome Sequencing Project is creating a library of influenza sequences that will help us understand what makes one strain more lethal than another, what genetic determinants most affect immunogenicity, and how the virus evolves over time.

Before 2004, all previous highly pathogenic avian flu (HPAI) virus strains circulated only among domesticated poultry and by culling all of them in the area, the strains were made extinct. Previous HPAI strains only existed in domesticated birds. A wild bird's LPAI would mutate in a domestic flock into an HPAI strain, all domestic birds in the area would be killed, and the HPAI strain would no longer have any hosts and thus would no longer exist. This current HPAI H5N1 strain has turned out to be different. In October 2004 researchers discovered H5N1 is far more dangerous than previously believed because waterfowl, especially ducks, were directly spreading the highly pathogenic strain of H5N1. From this point on, avian flu experts increasingly referred to containment as a strategy that can delay but not prevent a future avian flu pandemic. Nonetheless, there is still hope it will mutate into some low pathogenic strain over time and no longer exist in its current high pathogenic set of strains. But as time has gone on, the hope has come to look less and less likely. The result is that billions of dollars every year are going to be needed in expenditures that would not be required if it did go away. Poultry farming is especially hard hit. How to best spend pandemic mitigation funds and poultry farming protection funds is a question that to be answered requires billions in flu research and new flu vaccine manufacturing factories.

H7N9 is a bird flu strain of the species Influenza virus A (avian influenza virus or bird flu virus). Avian influenza A H7 viruses normally circulate amongst avian populations with some variants known to occasionally infect humans. An H7N9 virus was first reported to have infected humans in March 2013, in China. Cases continued to be reported throughout April and then dropped to only a few cases during the summer months. At the closing of the year, 144 cases had been reported of which 46 had died. It is known that influenza tends to strike during the winter months, and the second wave, which began in October, was fanned by a surge in poultry production timed for Chinese New Year feasts that began at the end of January. January 2014 brought a spike in reports of illness with 96 confirmed reports of disease and 19 deaths. As of April 11, 2014, the outbreak's overall total is 419, including 7 in Hong Kong, and the unofficial number of deaths is 127.

See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Influenza_research

Source: Wikipedia (All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License and Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.)

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