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SRI International to screen drugs that fight 2009 H1N1 influenza A

MENLO PARK, Calif. May 13, 2009 SRI International, an independent, nonprofit research and development organization, announced today that that it will screen a library of well-characterized drugs against the 2009 H1N1 influenza A virus, previously known as "swine flu." The work will be performed under a resource contract from the Division of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (DMID) in the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health.

There is currently only one class of antiviral drugs, the neuraminidase inhibitors, available to treat this H1N1 infection. Identifying drugs from other chemical and mechanistic classes could provide more effective alternatives to current therapies and make it easier to provide sufficient quantities of drugs to a broad population, should the need arise. The development of new treatments may be expedited by screening drugs that have already well-characterized safety and toxicity profiles.

"SRI has expertise in screening new and approved drugs, including the development of novel uses for antibiotics and screening a library of licensed drugs to find compounds that show efficacy against biothreat agents. SRI appreciates the opportunity to apply its knowledge and skills to screening drugs against H1N1 flu and contributing to the overall understanding of the virus," said Amy Shurtleff, Ph.D., a senior virologist in SRI International's Biosciences Division, who will lead this screening program.

Although the number of new 2009 H1N1 influenza A virus cases appears to be slowing worldwide, viruses are unpredictable. In particular, it is not known how this new virus will behave when the seasonal flu season returns this fall and in subsequent years. Scientists are looking at the Southern Hemisphere now, where the flu season will begin soon, for any signs of changes in the H1N1 virus and how humans respond to the infection.

SRI has a long and successful history of drug discovery and development, which includes both screening of licensed drugs and finding and studying new chemical and biological therapeutics and vaccines. The virus will be handled in compliance with all guidelines prescribed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for handling this strain of influenza. SRI researchers will culture cell lines and study H1N1 virus growth under well-controlled conditions. Next, they will begin testing the first round of drugs. Assuming that some drugs show worthwhile efficacy and potency, SRI will help develop a plan for preclinical and clinical evaluation and regulatory approval.


Contact: Dina Basin
SRI International

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