Review article here

Of particular interest, this target was shown to be suitable for the discovery of mirror-image peptide inhibitors (D-peptides), which are promising drug candidates. Unlike natural peptides, they are not digested by enzymes in the blood. D-peptides are also much simpler and less expensive to produce compared to the current most promising approach, antibodies. The Utah group has previously developed highly potent and broadly acting D-peptide inhibitors of HIV entry, currently in preclinical studies, and is now adapting this approach to Ebola using the mimics developed in this study. In collaboration with Navigen, several promising lead D-peptide inhibitors have already been identified. U of U and Navigen are now seeking additional funding to optimize these inhibitors and advance them into clinical trials in humans.

Design and characterization of ebolavirus GP prehairpin intermediate mimics as drug targets
Ebolaviruses are highly lethal filoviruses that cause hemorrhagic fever in humans and non-human primates. With no approved treatments or preventatives, the development of an anti-ebolavirus therapy to protect against natural infections and potential weaponization is an urgent global health need. Here, we describe the design, biophysical characterization, and validation of peptide mimics of the ebolavirus N-trimer, a highly conserved region of the GP2 fusion protein, to be used as targets to develop broad-spectrum inhibitors of ebolavirus entry. The N-trimer region of GP2 is 90% identical across all ebolavirus species and forms a critical part of the prehairpin intermediate that is exposed during viral entry. Specifically, we fused designed coiled coils to the N-trimer to present it as a soluble trimeric coiled coil as it appears during membrane fusion. Circular dichroism, sedimentation equilibrium and x-ray crystallography analyses reveal the helical, trimeric structure of the designed N-trimer mimic targets. Surface plasmon resonance studies validate that the N-trimer mimic binds its native ligand, the C-peptide region of GP2. The longest N-trimer mimic also inhibits virus entry, thereby confirming binding of the C-peptide region during viral entry and the presence of a vulnerable prehairpin intermediate. Using phage display as a model system, we validate the suitability of the N-trimer mimics as drug screening targets. Finally, we describe the foundational work to use the N-trimer mimics as targets in mirror-image phage display, which will be used to identify D-peptide inhibitors of ebolavirus entry.