Rapidly mutating viral pathogens are a continuous biological threat to the military and national security. Current preventive and therapeutic approaches, including vaccines and anti-viral drugs, are designed to target the virus in its original state at the time of discovery or diagnosis. This paradigm of “static” therapeutics and preventives requires repeated and time-consuming development, manufacturing, and testing, resulting in major health response gaps, economic burden, and limited capability to address newly emerging biothreats.
The goal of the INTERfering and Co-Evolving Prevention and Therapy (INTERCEPT) program is to develop and explore the potential use of Therapeutic Interfering Particles, or TIPs, as a dynamic approach to address rapidly evolving viral pathogens. TIPs are virus-derived particles with defective genomes that can only replicate in the presence of the virus, interfering with viral infection through competition for essential viral components. Just like their parent virus, TIPs are susceptible to mutation over time and can co-evolve with the mutating virus, mitigating virus evasion from the therapeutic.
The INTERCEPT program aims to explore and evaluate the TIP approach as a therapeutic and/or preventive approach for long-term control of a broad range of fast-evolving viruses. The program will address TIP safety, efficacy, long-term co-evolution, and generalizability by leveraging novel molecular and genetic design tools, high throughput genomic technologies, and advanced computational methods in a multidisciplinary effort.
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