A new crowdfunding effort is running to gather funds and support to push forward with DRACO antiviral technology. DRACO stands for double-stranded RNA activated caspase oligomerizer, a class of designer molecules that can selectively destroy cells that are hosting viruses. Viruses hijack cellular machinery in order to replicate, and that process has a distinctive signature: all known viruses produce double-stranded RNA during replication, and that double-stranded RNA is not not otherwise found in our cells. Thus any cell containing these molecules is fair game. Since DRACO therapies don't target any of the other highly varied molecular machinery of the virus itself, but rather prevent the virus from effectively multiplying its numbers, they can be used against near any target virus without much need for specialization or adjustment. It has proven effective against a score of very different viruses in tests in past years.
DRACO is a big deal, a real, potentially truly disruptive medical technology with solid evidence in animal studies to back up the claims. It might be used to up-end the entire field of antiviral therapies, and in principle can effectively treat and defeat near all viruses in near all of the species we care about. Needless to say even in our own species there are plenty of serious viral infections for which there is presently no effective treatment. DRACO could fill all of those gaps. The early development of DRACO is a shining example of how searching for commonalities in an otherwise highly complex field can find ways to turn a very expensive process of addressing thousands of targets individually into a process of addressing one target - a solid, cheap, effective, single path forward.
But of course all good ideas have to be forced on the world. No radical improvement or beneficial departure from the status quo goes unopposed. Just as in our community we are faced with the need to persuade people that we can and should use medical technology to address the root causes of aging and thereby live longer in good health, and we scramble to try to find meaningful levels of funding for rejuvenation research, so too DRACO is stuck in the funding gap that often follows great initial results in animal studies. It is a measure of the madness of the world we live in that such promising technologies can languish for years, or simply never be adopted, and that it requires scores of people to advocate and persuade to keep the work moving forward. Fortunately in this day and age ordinary folk like you can I can band together and do something about this: we can support fundraisers and help to persuade those we know of the value of DRACO. The world is full of people who have presently incurable viral infections, and once we include cytomegalovirus in that list, a cause of age-related immune system degeneration, that is pretty much all of us by the time we are old. People should be beating a path to the door of DRACO's inventor, not living an uncomfortable life without even knowing that this technology exists.
So, quite separately and aside from the usual focus here on aging research and furthering human longevity, I am happy to be able to put my money where my mouth is for DRACO and contribute to this latest fundraiser. I did so today. I hope that you will consider doing so too.
We are now raising funds to test and optimize DRACOs against the herpesvirus family, which contains many major clinical viruses such as Herpes Simplex Virus 1 (HSV-1), Herpes Simplex Virus 2 (HSV-2), Cytomegalovirus (CMV), Varicella Zoster Virus (VZV, chickenpox and shingles virus), Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV), and Kaposi's Sarcoma Herpesvirus (KSHV). If we can raise enough funding, we also hope to test and optimize DRACOs against the family of retroviruses, which includes Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Human T-Lymphotropic Virus (HTLV). In principle, the DRACO approach should be effective against virtually all known viruses, or potentially even against new viruses that may appear.
DRACOs could potentially revolutionize the treatment and prevention of viral infections, just as the development of antibiotics revolutionized the treatment and prevention of bacterial infections in the mid-20th century. With your help, we hope that DRACOs may ultimately end suffering and save lives of those struggling with any number 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 but not cured by existing antiviral therapeutics. When tested in human and animal cells, DRACOs have been nontoxic and effective against 18 different viruses, including rhinovirus (the common cold) and dengue hemorrhagic fever. For more information on the results of previous DRACO experiments, see the article published in PLOS ONE.
The drug approval process is unfortunately long and complicated. What we know is that 4 years (or potentially less depending on funding and results) should be enough time to test and collect enough data on clinically relevant herpes viruses that should persuade partners to help advance DRACOs toward human clinical trials. We are committed to testing and optimizing DRACOs against clinically relevant viruses as rapidly and as thoroughly as funding will permit, and we hope to see DRACOs advance to human trials as soon as possible. The greatest challenge has been securing funding to help DRACO research progress. It is also important to note that while DRACO is based on sound scientific principles and has yielded promising experimental results thus far, biological systems are very complex and we can offer no guarantee that DRACO research will end with a pill in a bottle for everyone. Without your help, though, we may never find out. 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.