University of Texas Medical Branch
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Biolab helps target medicine to beat viruses

GALVESTON — Researchers from the University of Texas Medical Branch have teamed up with three other universities and the U.S. Army to develop and test a compound capable of stopping dangerous viruses including Ebola, HIV, hepatitis C, West Nile, Rift Valley fever and yellow fever.

The compound, known as LJ001, was discovered by UCLA researchers while screening some 30,000 molecules to find one that blocked the deadly Nipah virus entering a host cell.

Subsequent experiments revealed that LJ001 is a "broad-spectrum" compound, blocking several viruses that, like Nipah, are surrounded by fatty capsules known as lipid envelopes.

Now, the UCLA and the medical branch teams, along with scientists at Harvard University, the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases and Cornell University, are working together to develop an antiviral medicine based on the compound.

"Once we started testing more and more, we realized LJ001 was only targeting enveloped viruses," said Alexander Freiberg, director of medical branch’s Shope Biosafety Level 4 laboratory, where much of the cell-culture work was done, as well as mouse studies with Ebola and Rift Valley fever viruses.

A paper on the work partly written by medical branch team members appears this week on the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science’s Web site.

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