Microbial infections are a problem of particular concern to the Department of Defense (DoD). The DoD has long recognized the warfighter’s outsized risk of exposure to infectious disease, including the rise of antimicrobial resistant (AMR) and multidrug resistant (MDR) pathogens that have challenged military wound care in Iraq and Afghanistan. Furthermore, the responsibility of the DoD to protect the homeland encompasses biological threat agents, including bacterial threats, for which effective countermeasures are critical.
HEALR seeks to establish an orthogonal approach to treating microbial infections by harnessing advancements in recruiting native cellular host machinery to recognize and eliminate disease-related targets. Specifically, HEALR will develop new medical countermeasures (MCMs) that result in host-driven degradation or deactivation of pathogen targets. By harnessing innate cellular processes, approaches such as proteolysis targeting chimeras (PROTACs) and similar methods can achieve superior outcomes over existing therapies.
HEALR aims to develop: (1) tools to target microbial pathogens for protein degradation (i.e., target-binding ligand development), (2) new protein degradation modalities to enable new pathways to protein degradation or deactivation (i.e., ‘NewTACs’), and (3) a platform that leverages these advances to permit flexible and rapid response to emerging threats.
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