Supporters of the DRACO (double-stranded RNA activated caspase oligomerizer) approach to antiviral medicine have launched a crowdfunding campaign, seeking enough philanthropic funding to move forward from the excellent results in cell and animal studies. DRACO represents an entirely novel approach to the problem of viral infection, potentially applicable to near all viruses, including those that currently cannot be effectively treated. The SENS Research Foundation is acting as a sponsoring organization, allowing donations to be tax deductible. The legal side of setting up a non-profit takes a couple of years these days, so this sort of assistance is pretty common for new initiatives. DRACO has been featured at SENS conferences in past years, so it seems like a good match.
Viruses must infect human or animal cells in order to replicate, and virtually all virus-infected cells contain long double-stranded RNA, whereas healthy cells do not. DRACOs detect double-stranded RNA inside the infected cells and then cause those cells to commit suicide before the viruses can replicate and spread to other cells. DRACOs do not harm uninfected cells because DRACOs are only looking for the general structure of double-stranded RNA that is made by a wide variety of viruses. By the process of efficiently eliminating only virus-infected cells, DRACOs may be able to permanently cure viral infections that can currently only be controlled. When tested in human and animal cells, DRACOs have been nontoxic and effective against 15 different viruses, including rhinovirus (the common cold) and dengue hemorrhagic fever.
Currently, DRACOs are in the well-known Valley of Death - the financial and experimental gap between the previously funded National Institutes of Health (NIH) proof of concept experiments and the threshold for convincing major pharmaceutical companies to advance DRACOs toward human trials. This campaign has been set up to raise the funding necessary to bridge that gap. With your assistance, we hope to raise enough funding to test and optimize DRACOs against clinically relevant viruses in human cells. If successful, the results of those experiments should persuade pharmaceutical companies and other major sponsors to commit their own resources to advance DRACOs through large-scale animal trials and hopefully human trials. Without your assistance, DRACOs may never progress further, and their potential to revolutionize the treatment of viral infections may remain unfulfilled.