Biomedicine Update: Are We About to Slay Viruses Forever? Mark 2022 on Your Calendar

Heard of DRACO? It stands for Double-stranded RNA Activated Caspase Oligomerizer. Back in August of 2011 I read a news office release from MIT’s Lincoln Lab, describing a new technology that could someday cure the common cold, influenza and other viral-derived illnesses. At the time I thought this is something to watch and see if comes out of the laboratory to become a reality. Unlike antibiotics designed to destroy bacterial invaders, DRACO focuses on viruses, and in particular, on a single universal feature common to all of them.

This image is of the rhinovirus, the cause of the common cold, magnified 10,000 times. DRACO may prove to be the first effective cure for this and many other virus-caused illnesses.

Viruses mutate rapidly. That’s why every year we need to get a new influenza shot because every year we tend to face a new viral variant.  But what do they all have in common? A double strand of RNA that coerces the DNA of the cells they invade to replicate copies of themselves. Every time a cell is invaded by a virus it replicates on mass and then breaks out destroying its host.

So what if an infected cell died before the virus could replicate? And what if the double strand of RNA could be the identifier that would trigger premature cell death so that no viruses could infect neighbouring cells. Essentially that is the modus operandi for DRACO, switching on the suicide button in a cell once the viral RNA alarm bell goes off.

What constitutes a suicide button in a cell? A protein! Normally cells use proteins as messengers and instruction deliverers for the execution of cell function. DRACO is a combination of two recognized natural proteins commonly found in human cells. Called a superprotein, DRACO’s two components are PKR and Apaf-1. PKR stands for protein kinase RNA-activated. It tracks the RNA viral double strand within the cell. Apaf-1 stands for apoptotic peptidase activation factor 1, a protein that activates a cell’s suicide switch.

What viruses are the object of DRACO’s wrath? The superprotein is being tested in the lab to combat 15 different viruses including:

  • HIV (AIDS)
  • Influenza (the flu including H1N1, swine flu)
  • Rabies
  • Ebola
  • Rhinovirus (the common cold)
  • Dengue Fever
  • Tacaribe
  • TMEV
  • Amapari
  • Reovirus
  • Adenovirus (respiratory infections)
  • Murine Adenovirus (internal organ infections)
  • Varicella zoster (chicken pox)

When will DRACO be available for human trial?. As early as 2017 with large-scale trials planned for 2020. FDA and other health authority approvals are expected by 2022.

For a recent article on DRACO, look for the September/October 2012 issue of Science Illustrated. Great pictures and good explanations.

DRACO has cured 15 different viruses in the lab. These include the common cold (rhinovirus), influenza including swine flu, and adenovirus. If administered early enough it should be able to kill HIV as well.                 Source: The Airspace.Net



Len Rosen lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He is a researcher and writer who has a fascination with science and technology. He is married with a daughter who works in radio, and a miniature red poodle who is his daily companion on walks of discovery. More...


  • sam

    great post! this is really exciting stuff.
    where did you hear that clinical trials would be in 2017 and market release in 2022? i heard before that they were having trouble w funding.

    • lenrosen4

      The forecast appeared in the information release put out by the research team. The information appeared in a recent issue of Science Illustrated.

  • halkopous

    Phages will be spared, right? We don’t want to kill off those bacteria killing phages otherwise the bacteria might get us instead. Could there be other unintended consequences?

    • lenrosen4

      Bacteriophages are probably not under the gun if they are benign or have no human disease negative impact. And of course we are using viruses as delivery mechanisms for treating diseases through the insertion of new genetic material into unhealthy tissue. So the viruses we slay are those that are killing or having a negative impact on us.

  • applewine

    2022 is not acceptable. Human trials should have already begun years ago and must begin immediately. It is medically acceptable to do human trials on the terminally ill in developing countries. The FDA and bureaucratic process is very harmful. The terminally ill have a potential cure and the rest of us can also benefit from bringing this to market instead of needless delays for decades.

  • Omne vivum ex vivo

    1st it’s a matter of mass awareness!!! 2nd, dispell a couple false arguments. A. Killing off infected cells will cause too much damage. This is false. Why? All infected cells are worse than dead. They only serve the virus not the person. Therefore, the sooner they die they can no longer infect more cells. Here is a huge reason to celebrate draco, it crosses the blood brain barrier, it enters the nervous system leaving no place for any known virus to hide. Also all known viruses be it a ( DNA, or RNA of any type ) all make double stranded RNA as part of its bio machinery!!!!! Hence, draco detects them all. So spread the word. Realize it doesn’t matter your viral infection. All people inflicted have the same common goal a should work together collectively to bring draco to the medacine cabinet. It’s all a matter of mass priority. It’s the kind of pressure the current president would welcome so he could be associated with the greatest breakthrough of the 21st Century. With enough social demand and funding this could become a government project and be available faster than penicillin once the us government realizes its potential!!!!!!! Demand government action! Turn a walk for aids or any other viral disease into an enormous walk for draco!!!!!!!

  • Omne vivum ex vivo

    I almost forgot the 2nd bad argument. B some viruses bay be good for us…. Well, So far the scientific community has not yet been able to establish that. But we do know viruses have proven to be bad bad bad for us!!! I close by saying advocate Dr Rider at MIT. And demand the government to get on with it. Draco is worthy of military spending!!! By the way, The US ARMY has its own viral laboratories and infrastructure to help……… Demand Government Action!!!!!

  • tony

    2022 is unacceptable. Millions of people every year either die, or are significanally affected by viruses. And if there is something out there that could literally save millions of lives, but is projected to have funding issues is an absolute joke! This should be taxed from every paycheck, from every person who gets a paycheck, if this is proven to work! Money should not get in the way of this, or the process which the FDA chooses to take. This isn’t a treatment for acne! This is a medical necessity thats needed now! We need to start a petition and spread the word!
    Let’s start toward the goal today!

    • lenrosen4

      Hi Tony, I understand your conviction but DRACO is undergoing rigorous lab testing and as I said at the beginning of the posting research of this type often goes down wrong paths or in testing produces unforeseen negative results. There are many other lines of enquiry into curing disease that involve targeting unique and common receptors in viruses and bacteria. If we can see a fraction of these come to fruition within the decade then we will dramatically alter the wellness of humanity going forward.

      • Kurt

        Once again, more rubbish from lenrosen4… Voluntary human experimentation should to be unrestricted in North America….Will people die from experimental drugs? the answer is yes, but if they are willing to take the risk then so be it…It is their life not yours, and your statist line of reasoning is absolutely disgusting to see repeated over and over by so many people.

  • Brian Smith

    Len, I understand your position, yet there are doubtless many very ill people that would be thrilled to have have at least a * chance* of beating their respective diseases than simply die waiting until the FDA approves this treatment. 2022? What’s wrong with experimental testing on very ill people, complete with signed legal disclaimers? The benefits of this research are difficult to overstate.

    • lenrosen4

      Hi Brian, Can you imagine the outrage that would occur if we were to do experimental treatment on patients, even those with no other options left, without a rigorous process, particularly if some were to die from the treatment? I’m sure in some countries where human rights take second place to expediency that medical practice would allow for this.

      • Kurt

        There would be no outrage because they know going in that it’s a risky thing to take experimental drugs….Individuals deserve the right to decide for themselves what’s too risky and what’s not, no one else.

        The only way there would be any outrage at all is if it was done without consent. So basically, your comment is rubbish.

        • David Dubai

          I agree! People are in pain, people are dying, and such a promising drug should be a humanitarian responsibility of the whole planet. If this drug can work on humans, we should find that out ASAP.

          How many people does HIV and Ebola kill? How is this not have more attention?

  • Brian Davis

    I’m pretty sure they would welcome all the help they can get right now in West Africa, given the whole largest outbreak of Ebola in the history of Ebola outbreaks thing that’s going on right now. Human rights tend to take second place to epidemics, especially with a virus that’s only current treatment is to quarantine the affected area and wait for people to die.

  • John

    I desperately hope DRACO works soon! Living in a world with less and less incurable diseases would extremely increase optimism and prosperity. This would be a large step closer to living in a beautiful utopia.

  • Hari Varshan

    Wont DRACO cure HSV, EBV, CMv, HPV? I have all of them in my sytem, very sick

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