The goal of this SBIR research program is to develop a novel small molecule inhibitor of latent Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) infection. EBV is a ubiquitous gamma- herpesvirus that has been classified by the World Health Organization as a human carcinogen. Vironika, with its consortium partners the Wistar Institute and Fox Chase Chemical Diversity Center, Inc., will develop a highly specific and potent inhibitor of EBV latency that wil provide an important therapeutic strategy to treat EBV-associated diseases. Latent infection is associated with multiple human malignancies, including Burkitt's lymphoma, nasopharyngeal carcinomas, Hodgkin's lymphoma, gastric carcinomas, and immunoblastic B-cell lymphoma's during immunosuppression. Currently, no EBV-specific therapies exist that target latent infection, and therefore it remains impossible to effectively treat or prevent EBV-associated disease. The latent infection depends on a viral encoded protein which functions in the replication and maintenance of the viral genome. Genetic and biological disruption of this protein blocks viral latent infection and EBV- dependent B-cell growth. The binding domain of this protein has been characterized structurally and biochemically, and serves as an ideal molecule for targeted small molecule inhibition of EBV infection. We have screened over 600,000 compounds in our primary HTS screen. Using hit-to-lead filtering approaches, we identified one lead series and two alternative backup series that have high potency in biochemical inhibitor assays and high selectivity in multiple cell-based assays, including selective killing of EBV+ lymphoma cell lines. Our lead compound has efficacy in an animal model of EBV lymphomagenesis. In this Phase 1 proposal, we will partner with Fox Chase Chemical Diversity Center to advance a lead compound using medicinal chemistry methods and extensive biochemical and biological analysis to validate mechanism of drug action. In Phase 2, we will develop our advanced leads into a pre-clinical lead candidate. The ultimate goal of this SBIR program is to develop a novel small molecule therapeutic agent to treat latent EBV infection and its associated malignancies.
The research program described in this proposal will reduce the incidence of latent (non-active) infection by Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV). Latent EBV has been classified as a human carcinogen and is associated with Burkitt's lymphoma, Hodgkin's lymphoma, and nasopharyngeal carcinomas. The product being developed in this proposal is the first therapeutic small molecule drug that specifically disrupts EBV latent infection.