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Upstate signs agreement with development stage company to test treatment for shingles

Upstate signs agreement with development stage company to test treatment for shingles

SYRACUSE, N.Y.-- Upstate Medical University has signed an agreement with the Connecticut-based development stage company NanoViricides to test drug candidates against varicella zoster virus (VZV), also know as the shingles virus.

Shingles is a painful skin rash that can have debilitating effects on sufferers, especially older adults.

The research will be performed in the laboratory of Jennifer Moffat, PhD, associate professor of microbiology and immunology, and will include in vitro, ex vivo and possibly in vivo studies.

“We are pleased to study the new antiviral compounds from NanoViricides in our VZV models,” Moffat said.  “Using nanoparticles to target viruses is an innovative approach and we’re eager to collaborate on this project.”

Moffat has extensive experience in varicella zoster virus infection and antiviral agent discovery.  The goal of these studies is to help select a clinical drug development candidate for toxicology and safety evaluation intended for clinical trials for the treatment of shingles in humans.

VZV is restricted to human tissue and only infects and replicates in human tissue.  The in vitro studies will evaluate the effectiveness of the company’s nanoviricides antiviral agents against VZV infection of certain human cells in culture. The ex vivo studies will evaluate the efficacy of the company’s nanoviricides to inhibit VZV in human skin organ cultures. Moffat has developed the human skin organ culture VZV infection model for the evaluation of therapeutics. This model is a good representative model of natural VZV infection in humans as well as an important model for evaluating antiviral activity, because it demonstrates behavior similar to the skin lesions caused by VZV in human patients.

Moffat is an internationally recognized expert on varicella zoster virus, and her research has focused on the pathogenesis and treatment of infection by this virus. The current emphasis of her research group is evaluating antiviral compounds for VZV in a unique humanized SCID mouse model, which is supported by an NIH contract.  She has received multiple National Institutes of Health and New York state awards for her projects on the molecular basis of VZV disease, as well as contracts with pharmaceutical companies.

In 2005, Moffat received the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Scholarship and Research. She has served on several NIH review panels and is on the editorial board of Journal of Clinical Virology and Antiviral Research. Moffat is a board member of the International Society for Antiviral Research and has contributed to the annual conference by chairing sessions, judging posters, and mentoring in the Career Development and Women in Science events. Moffat has authored about 30 peer-reviewed articles, invited reviews, and book chapters.  She was co-editor of a recent issue of Current Topics in Microbiology that covered advances in VZV research.

Moffat trained at Stanford University School of Medicine, where she received her doctorate in microbiology and immunology and did a postdoctoral fellowship in pediatric infectious diseases. She joined the Upstate faculty in 1999.

Shingles is a painful skin rash that develops in band or stripe on one side of the face or body. The rash may turn into blisters and last weeks. Prior to the rash, symptoms include pain, itching and tingling in the area where the rash develops. Shingles can affect the eye and cause vision loss. Almost one out of every three people in the United States will develop shingles.

Jennifer Moffat, PhD, right, associate professor of microbiology and immunology, with Dongmei Liu, principal research associate.