• The microscope images above show that DRACO successfully treats viral infections. In this set of four photos, dengue hemorrhagic fever virus kills untreated monkey cells (lower left), whereas DRACO has no toxicity in uninfected cells (upper right) and cures an infected cell population (lower right).

    The microscope images above show that DRACO successfully treats viral infections. In this set of four photos, dengue hemorrhagic fever virus kills untreated monkey cells (lower left), whereas DRACO has no toxicity in uninfected cells (upper right) and cures an infected cell population (lower right).

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  • Todd Rider invented the PANACEA and DRACO antiviral therapeutics, and previously invented the CANARY (Cellular Analysis and Notification of Antigen Risks and Yields) sensor for rapid pathogen detection and identification.

    Todd Rider invented the PANACEA and DRACO antiviral therapeutics, and previously invented the CANARY (Cellular Analysis and Notification of Antigen Risks and Yields) sensor for rapid pathogen detection and identification.

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New drug could cure nearly any viral infection

The microscope images above show that DRACO successfully treats viral infections. In this set of four photos, dengue hemorrhagic fever virus kills untreated monkey cells (lower left), whereas DRACO has no toxicity in uninfected cells (upper right) and cures an infected cell population (lower right).

Researchers at MIT’s Lincoln Lab have developed technology that may someday cure the common cold, influenza and other ailments.

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Most bacterial infections can be treated with antibiotics such as penicillin, discovered decades ago. However, such drugs are useless against viral infections, including influenza, the common cold, and deadly hemorrhagic fevers such as Ebola.

Now, in a development that could transform how viral infections are treated, a team of researchers at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory has designed a drug that can identify cells that have been infected by any type of virus, then kill those cells to terminate the infection.

The microscope images above show that DRACO successfully treats viral infections. In the left set of four photos, rhinovirus (the common cold virus) kills untreated human cells (lower left), whereas DRACO has no toxicity in uninfected cells (upper right) and cures an infected cell population (lower right). Similarly, in the right set of four photos, dengue hemorrhagic fever virus kills untreated monkey cells (lower left), whereas DRACO has no toxicity in uninfected cells (upper right) and cures an infected cell population (lower right). | Enlarge image

In a paper published July 27 in the journal PLoS One, the researchers tested their drug against 15 viruses, and found it was effective against all of them — including rhinoviruses that cause the common cold, H1N1 influenza, a stomach virus, a polio virus, dengue fever and several other types of hemorrhagic fever.

The drug works by targeting a type of RNA produced only in cells that have been infected by viruses. “In theory, it should work against all viruses,” says Todd Rider, a senior staff scientist in Lincoln Laboratory’s Chemical, Biological, and Nanoscale Technologies Group who invented the new technology.

Because the technology is so broad-spectrum, it could potentially also be used to combat outbreaks of new viruses, such as the 2003 SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) outbreak, Rider says.

Other members of the research team are Lincoln Lab staff members Scott Wick, Christina Zook, Tara Boettcher, Jennifer Pancoast and Benjamin Zusman.

Few antivirals available

Rider had the idea to try developing a broad-spectrum antiviral therapy about 11 years ago, after inventing CANARY (Cellular Analysis and Notification of Antigen Risks and Yields), a biosensor that can rapidly identify pathogens. “If you detect a pathogenic bacterium in the environment, there is probably an antibiotic that could be used to treat someone exposed to that, but I realized there are very few treatments out there for viruses,” he says.

There are a handful of drugs that combat specific viruses, such as the protease inhibitors used to control HIV infection, but these are relatively few in number and susceptible to viral resistance. 

Rider drew inspiration for his therapeutic agents, dubbed DRACOs (Double-stranded RNA Activated Caspase Oligomerizers), from living cells’ own defense systems.

When viruses infect a cell, they take over its cellular machinery for their own purpose — that is, creating more copies of the virus. During this process, the viruses create long strings of double-stranded RNA (dsRNA), which is not found in human or other animal cells.

As part of their natural defenses against viral infection, human cells have proteins that latch onto dsRNA, setting off a cascade of reactions that prevents the virus from replicating itself. However, many viruses can outsmart that system by blocking one of the steps further down the cascade.

Rider had the idea to combine a dsRNA-binding protein with another protein that induces cells to undergo apoptosis (programmed cell suicide) — launched, for example, when a cell determines it is en route to becoming cancerous. Therefore, when one end of the DRACO binds to dsRNA, it signals the other end of the DRACO to initiate cell suicide.

Combining those two elements is a “great idea” and a very novel approach, says Karla Kirkegaard, professor of microbiology and immunology at Stanford University. “Viruses are pretty good at developing resistance to things we try against them, but in this case, it’s hard to think of a simple pathway to drug resistance,” she says.

Each DRACO also includes a “delivery tag,” taken from naturally occurring proteins, that allows it to cross cell membranes and enter any human or animal cell. However, if no dsRNA is present, DRACO leaves the cell unharmed.

Most of the tests reported in this study were done in human and animal cells cultured in the lab, but the researchers also tested DRACO in mice infected with the H1N1 influenza virus. When mice were treated with DRACO, they were completely cured of the infection. The tests also showed that DRACO itself is not toxic to mice.

The researchers are now testing DRACO against more viruses in mice and beginning to get promising results. Rider says he hopes to license the technology for trials in larger animals and for eventual human clinical trials.

This work is funded by a grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the New England Regional Center of Excellence for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases, with previous funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Defense Threat Reduction Agency, and Director of Defense Research & Engineering (now the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering).

Topics: Biology, Lincoln Laboratory, Antiviral drugs, Apoptosis (cell suicide), Viruses, Ebola


You have recreated the process of cellular recycling which is normally triggered by a restricted calorie diet. You neglect to mention AIDS, Herpes, or Hepatitis because those viruses infect colon bacteria and cellular recycling does not take place on non-human bacterial cells. Great work, you may not know it, but you just cured old age. This works as long as the virus can not reproduce faster than the recycling process (Hanta,Ebola,etc.) It is not an anti-viral, but it is a "cure." Congratulations Dr. Rider and team.

Hi Herbal lady! Could you please share with me how you have managed to get rid of all arthritic manifestations? I'm a 31 female, scared and at loss of ideas on how to deal with this horrible conditon .... Thank you!

Other than that, congratulations to the MIT team for identifying novel ways of fighting viruses. My only concern lies in the fact that whole organs could be infected by viruses - wouldn't apoptosis of infected cells trigger organ failure?

I'm hoping and asking if the DRACO drug has hope for eliminating the herpes related viruses?

How long do we expect for certification and do you need patients to be available for testing?

This is so important!

I would think a good candidate for animal trials would be rabies since it is so virulent and there is no cure once symptoms begin. If effective it could also be a godsend for humans who contract it and become symptomatic.

I think DRACO would kill anyone with rabies. Remember this drug causes infected cells to undergo apoptosis; rabies infects the brain so if the drug doesn't kill you it would likely cause severe brain or nerve damage? Now I read that HPA-23 (used on AIDS patients in France during the 1980s) has managed to cure some mice and foxes infected with rabies, but for some reason the drug never took of.

I had read that vitamin D3 had antibacterial and antiviral properties, but to my understanding it has a different mechanism than DRACO. Vitamin D3 ( which is really a hormone) stimulates our bodies to produce antimicrobial peptides that can destroy viruses and bacteria. For that reason some researchers suggest using high dosages of intravenous vitamin D3 in cases of life threatening infections.

From the article it seems that DRACO only attacks actively infected cells it would likely only affect active Herpes infections. It probably would not affect dormant Herpes viruses lying in nerve cells. It's like the antiviral aciclovir which works on active Herpes infections, but it can't do anything against dormant viruses in the nerve cells. Though as long as your immune system remains strong you won't have to worry about those dormant viruses.

This will not be a drug for the common cold. It would appear that this treatment is a genetically engineered protein, perhaps more then one, that will be extremely expensive to produce, somewhere in the vicinity of $10,000 per treatment. Also, it would need to be administered as an iv agent. This will be a treatment for the rich only

Its a breakthrough discovery. Worth winning a Nobel prize. In the abstract no mention was made about the HIV cure. When this drug can eliminate all virus infected cells, do u think a cure for hiv is possible. If this can happen it would be benificial for many who are harbouring this nasty virus in their cells.

For every great defense an even greater weapon is created.

My wonder is that will this leaded to more and stronger viral capabilities. If we use our own body's potential to kill the virus and they become immune to this event, then down the long road will we be incapable of killing them on our own?

I don't think this drug would be useful for HIV...AIDS occurs when the CD4 positive T cell count (the cell of choice for HIV) has dropped below a certain amount...DRACO kills the cell so this would just be doing the same thing.

An ihibitor for HIV would have to not kill the cell it infects.

Cancer is not a virus. Some cancers can be linked to infection with certain viruses, for example Cervical cancer and the Human Papilloma Virus

give it to me give it to me now i'll be your guinea pig please no more sore throats!!!

And there isn't huge profits to be made with DRACO?

Hey Herblady,

"Conventional medicine or science will not likely help in the near future because they treat symptoms and never look for root causes"

Your comment belongs over on a 'woo and alternative medicine' site. Not demeaning the hard work by brilliant scientists at MIT.

Where do I sign up for the clinical trial??? I am a patient who suffers with viral and fungal infections. I know many others through our treatment at Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum, MD's nationwide clinics who might also be interested. We desperately need something to kill these viral hosts. Wonderful article.

Is there any hope for people living with HIV?

these is the most importat discover in medicine since peniciline.

why Fauci delay the cure of HIV.

How can keep posted about your collaboration with Dr. Peter Spitzer



Please name it after him!

I was thinking the same thing about harmless or other dormant virus like the chicken pox virus that lie dormant for years in nerve cells and can later cause shingles.

What would this do to all those nerve cells?

I am very pleased with this breakthrough for the cure of the common cold. I do hope that it is released soon.

This also brings to mind about the other diseases that that I hope they get a cure for soon. Such as AIDS, herpies, etc.

I can say, along with many others thinking the same thing. 10k now to be free from outbreaks, I have it. Lets get rid of these pesky outbreaks today. I'll be on the first flight to MIT.

Nobel prize worthy indeed.

The name of this drug is going to cause millions of thinking people to never have anything to do with it. It is an unfortunate choice. Or perhaps it is an intentional choice in which case I question the motives of MIT. Any drug called DRACO sounds like it's purpose is population control.


I'm anxiously waiting for this drug to come in market. When will it be available for therapeutic purpose.

I agree with you.

Quite interesting.I'd suggest you all look up a little known drug called Admacine and a chemical component called Synthetic Aluminium Magnesium Silicate both invented by Dr Maduike Ezeibe of the Dept. of Veterinary Medicine, University of Nigeria Nsukka. It's an antiviral drug that has successfully cured Avian Influenza Virus, Canine Parvovirus and Newcastle disease. It's strongly believed that the drug should be able to cure all viral diseases going by the theory it operates on.It operates on the theory of trapping which is based on the fact that all viruses are positively or negatively charged, and this compound contains molecules with both charges.So +vely charged viruses will attach to the -ve end of the molecule when it comes in contact with it, and vice versa. Sadly though, this very wonderful invention has not received the funding,support and publicity it deserves.The compound has several other interesting uses.Poultry farmers who have used the drug can attest to its efficacy.

Promising. Worth further development and testing. Similar to much bio-weapon research as far as specific-target work. Scary in that way.


Hats off to you, desereve the Nobel prize for Medicine

Quite interesting no mention was made of HIV.....I wonder how effective the technology would be in combating HIV. Nevertheless, great job from the MIT guys. Abiodun, Nigeria

It would seem to me that like with certain technologies already available, like cars that get over 100mpg, that someone like Big Oil, or drug manufacturers in this case would pay very close attention to this so they can buy whatever patent there is and stop the release of this drug. Cures like this should definitely be funded, and the creators be greatly rewarded, but the drug itself should be "open source".

Can this drugs cure hiv

Ladies and Gentlemen; the drug that starts the zombie apocalypse has arrived. Get stocked up on food storage and ammunition... ;)

any one here knows about Virkon S? a powerful broad spectrum virucidal disinfectant it independently proven effective against viral, bacterial and fungal disease causing organisms mainly use in agricultural purposes. DRACO works the same way.but more smarter and harmless for clinical use

Will big pharmaceutical companies suppressing this drug? Those giant pharmaceutical cannot sustain without people getting sick, they will use billions and billions of dollars to suppress the release of the drug.

Hope that this drug will release soon to the public, for those who are having no chances to test first.

I mean those who are dying from the virus, why cant they are given the option to test the drug since if the doctor diagnosed they dont 2nd chance...they have nothing to lose!

I have enormous respect for the scientists around the world working on cures like this.

Can this new drug cure HIV and AIDS?

When will such diseases be curable?

I have enormous amount of respect for MIT researchers. This new breakthrough in curing nearly all viral infections is truly impressive!

I know that someday they will have the answers and cures to diseases such as HIV/AIDs as well as cancer. It's only a matter of time.

Does anyone know if they are close to finding the cures to these?

10k is a lot to cure a disease? In the long run, any chronic disesaes easily cost 100k and above!

Totally Agreed!

If a volunteer is need for a test subject who do I need to contact and how? Now if this new drug is truely going to kill a virus will it 1 be affordable and 2 will the drug companies let hit the market because its going to hurt there profits.

Dr. Rider,

Please try applying your new technology against HTLV - 25 million people are suffering with this terrible virus worldwide.

Thank you!

Dear MIT, I currently have herpes meningitis and I am asking you to please consider me as possible test subject

This brings a ray of hope for all suffering from deadly viruses.Looks like a novel approch to teat viral infection.

I wish HTLV virus was the one on priority list to be tested for this noval approch. with more than 25 mm people suffering govt and medical agencies have swept this disease under the rug past 35 years.Not mentioning to general public.

There is no single medicine be developed till date for HTLV in the history of retrovirus. Hope MIT with this approch creats history.

By when can we expect this drug into the market and get hope for people suffering with different deadly viruses.

Hope selfishness of Pharma companies profit dosent come in between the novel drug approch.

As DRACO is a chimeric proteine, shouldn´t there be a reaction of the patients immune system? If that would be so, you could use it only once for a certain patient. And as DRACO unspecifically enters every cell, I think you would have to get a lot of it in infusions. (And an infusion it has to be, because it´s a proteine). And Cells with dormant viruses (provirus) shouldn´t be affected at all.

I think that unfortunately limits it´s usefullness a lot.

Thank you to all at MIT! In response to angel468's question, DRACO may one day cure HIV. I have only known one case where someone with HIV was "cured".


A year later what happened to DRACO? Any progress or is this another promising project that fell by the wayside?

Well done MIT Team, May your efforts benefit mankind. May it bring you noteworthy praise and reward you handsomely for you research.

We really need this, the people with undiagnose viral infection, people who are diagnose with CFS/ME or HIV like disease, we really are suffers from unknown viral infection having low NK cells, tender lymph nodes and bad CD8/CD4 ratio and dozen of more symptoms ,we dont have any cure or treatmentand some thing like this will just make it simple to killall those pathogens even the ones that we dont know about cause now we dont care except of becoming healthy and live like other people again :(

its nice to think that one day.. i might be able to be healthy again. im in my 20 and ebv has made it hard to do normally daily activities. its been chronic. god bless MITs genius. love u all.

Oh please. RA is known to be autoimmune disorder. Exact mechanism is not known, but that's true of most autoimmune diseases. There's no simple answer to fixing your body from attacking itself.

And has alternative medicine done ANY research into the 'root cause'? No.


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