LJI scientists are working to improve these outcomes and develop therapeutics against what remains a serious public health concern.
One roadblock to progress in establishing anti-Nipah interventions (including a vaccine) has been the lack of high-resolution structures of key viral proteins. Nipah and related paramyxoviruses express a multifunctional phosphoprotein, called P, which executes numerous virus functions. This protein could be targeted by antibodies or other immune factors elicited by a vaccine.
LJI structural virologist Erica Ollmann Saphire, Ph.D., is investigating the structure of specific regions of the P protein and has identified motifs conserved across species that may be essential for the virus to replicate or enclose itself in a capsid. Two particular features, a basic patch and a kink in the protein, are conserved in the related measles virus, providing additional evidence that they support essential virus activities. Saphire is now illuminating these structures to provide new avenues for broad-spectrum antiviral defense.