A highly contagious virus known as respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a major cause of respiratory illness in infants, young children and the elderly. For thousands of people each year, RSV can be deadly. New research at Georgia State University is playing a role in the development of helpful treatments and tools for vaccine development efforts underway.


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Biotech companies are leveraging Georgia State University tools to develop drugs for RSV.

Distinguished University Professor Richard Plemper directs the Center for Translational Antiviral Research in the Institute for Biomedical Sciences, which focuses on unlocking the pathogenesis of respiratory RNA viruses and antiviral drug development.

To aid in that work, researchers have developed different types of reporter structures that can be introduced into cells for use in drug screening assays. The tools emit fluorescent or bioluminescent light at different intensities when the RSV genes are being inhibited by the potential antiviral agents being tested. Not only are these technologies useful to view the reaction of viruses, they also make RSV testing much safer since they do not contain the viral proteins that cause infection.

Safer testing

“We are constantly working toward developing new ways to treat, prevent and detect RSV, and we know this technology has the potential to make testing safer,” explained Plemper. “We also feel confident that these tools have novel uses for those who study antivirals in the biotechnology industry.”

A number of tools developed by Plemper are already being leveraged by multiple vaccine companies and are currently available for non-exclusive licensing. In April, Georgia State’s Office of Technology Transfer signed a new non-exclusive internal vaccine research and development license agreement with a large vaccine company for use of an RSV Minigenome construct invented by Plemper and his team.

Other products developed in the Center for Translational Antiviral Research by Plemper and his research team include VSV-eGFP with eGFP Reporter, VSV-nanoLuc with nano-Luciferase Reporter and Recombinant Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) Firefly Luciferase Reporter Virus. All of the tools developed at Georgia State are currently available for non-exclusive licensing.