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27 Sep 2021
  • Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre
  • VCCC Alliance
  • Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity

Monday Lunch Livestream COVID-19 drug discovery special

Antiviral treatments for COVID-19 – the role of CRISPR-Cas13

Victorian researchers have embarked on groundbreaking research to potentially stop COVID-19 from replicating in infected human cells using ­advancements in gene editing. This is a major step towards treatment for COVID-19 and its variants. Join Professor Sharon Lewin, Dr Mohamed Fareh and Dr Wei Zhao for front-row insights into fighting novel viruses into the future. 

Professor Sharon Lewin and a team from the Doherty Institute and Peter Mac will discuss the challenges of drug development for COVID-19, and some promising prospects in the fight against COVID-19 variants.

Although there has been spectacular success in developing highly effective vaccines for COVID-19, the development of effective treatments, specifically antiviral drugs, has been disappointing. One of the major challenges has been that COVID-19 is a complex disease with multiple phases. Viral replication is pronounced early in asymptomatic and symptomatic infection while an aberrant immune response is evident in people who are hospitalised with severe respiratory or systemic disease.

Immune modulators, including steroids and anti-IL6, have shown clinical benefit with a reduction in mortality of over 30 per cent in people with moderate or severe disease requiring supplemental oxygen. There has been rapid development of monoclonal antibodies and these appear to be effective if given early in infection. However, antibodies are expensive and challenging to administer as they require intravenous delivery, and emerging variants of concern show some resistance and loss of efficacy.

In this presentation hear how CRISPR-Cas13 provides a molecular blueprint of anti-viral therapeutics that could prevent or treat SARS-CoV2 or other new RNA viruses that may emerge in the future.

The slow development of effective antivirals for COVID-19 is a stark reminder of the need for the world to be better prepared for future pandemics through the development of and investment in platforms for antivirals that can be rapidly reprogrammed to target novel viruses.


The treatment landscape for COVID-19 and the need for direct-acting antivirals
Professor Sharon Lewin
Infectious disease expert and inaugural Director, Doherty Institute

CRISPR-Cas13 and impact on SARS-CoV2
Dr Mohamed Fareh, Senior Research Fellow, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre

Variants, viral replication and CRISPR-Cas13
Dr Wei Zhao
Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Doherty Institute 

Monday 27 September