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Feng Gao, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellowship in Drug Discovery, 2022 University of Arizona

Treating COVID-19 With a Therapeutic Approach From Cancer Research


By the end of 2022, COVID-19 had infected over 650 million people and led to nearly 6.7 million deaths worldwide. There remains an urgent need for new, effective therapeutics to treat the disease as it mutates. My research looks at the viability of a therapeutic approach pioneered in cancer for treating COVID-19. Proteolysis-targeting chimeras (PROTACs) are small molecules that can target and degrade mutant proteins linked to diseases, helping to overcome mutation-caused drug resistance and promote an adaptive immune response. My research seeks to discover novel PROTACs that can target an important enzyme in the coronavirus replication cycle for the treatment of COVID-19. My study evaluates the antiviral activity of PROTACs on cellular and animal models and explores the capability of PROTACs to induce the human immune response. If successful, this study will not only lead to the discovery of novel PROTACs to combat COVID-19, but may also provide insight into the detailed mechanisms of PROTACs in the development of an immune response, which can be useful in other therapeutic areas.

The PhRMA Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship has provided me a great opportunity to pursue a branch of my research aimed at COVID-19. This award will have a fundamental impact on my academic career and help me develop the experience needed to be an independent researcher.


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