The DRACOs Project: to end viral diseases

Viruses have plagued mankind since the beginning. The DRACOs project may be able to end suffering and death caused by virtually all current & future viral diseases. Basically, the aim is to end viral sickness!

About the DRACOs project

DRACOs (Double-stranded RNA Activated Caspase Oligomerizers) are broad-spectrum antiviral candidates developed by Dr. Todd Rider. They have proved safe and effective in treating ALL 18 viruses against which Dr. Rider has tested them in proof-of-concept work. Two different types of H1N1 influenza (flu), four types of rhinovirus (the common cold), two adenoviruses, dengue hemorrhagic fever, and others were among the 18 viruses that DRACOs have successfully treated in human and animal cells and in mice.

Read more on the published results in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS ONE.

They are now raising funds to test and optimize DRACOs against the herpesvirus family, which contains many major clinical viruses such as Herpes Simplex Virus 1 (HSV-1), Herpes Simplex Virus 2 (HSV-2), Cytomegalovirus (CMV), Varicella Zoster Virus (VZV, chickenpox and shingles virus), Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV), and Kaposi’s Sarcoma Herpesvirus (KSHV).

What are DRACOs?

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In principle, the DRACO approach should be effective against virtually all known viruses, or potentially even against new viruses that may appear.

A DRACO has already proved effective against four different rhinoviruses (common cold) strains in human cells and against H1N1 influenza (Swine Flu) in cells and in live mice!

The Science: How DRACOs work?




By the process of efficiently eliminating only virus-infected cells, DRACOs may be able to permanently cure viral infections that can currently only be controlled but not cured by existing antiviral therapeutics.

When tested in human and animal cells, DRACOs have been nontoxic and effective against 18 different viruses, including rhinovirus (the common cold) and dengue hemorrhagic fever.

Timeline: When Might DRACOs Be Available?

The drug approval process is unfortunately long and complicated. DRACO says 4 years (or potentially less depending on funding and results) should be enough time for Dr.Rider to test and collect enough data on clinically relevant herpes viruses that should persuade partners to help advance DRACOs toward human clinical trials. They are committed to testing and optimizing DRACOs against clinically relevant viruses as rapidly and as thoroughly as funding will permit, and they hope to see DRACOs advance to human trials as soon as possible.

Risks & Challenges

The greatest challenge has been securing funding to help DRACO research progress. It is also important to note that while DRACO is based on sound scientific principles and has yielded promising experimental results thus far, biological systems are very complex and they can offer no guarantee that DRACO research will end with a pill in a bottle for everyone. However, they say that without everyone’s help, they may never find out.


About Dr. Todd Rider

15Dr. Todd H. Rider studied both biomedicine and engineering at MIT, including coursework at Harvard Medical School, and has spent his career inventing novel biotechnology projects by combining molecular and cellular biology tools with a systems engineering approach. After receiving his Ph.D. from MIT, he worked at Aeiveos Corporation on in vitro experiments to test and potentially intervene in the molecular mechanisms of human aging.

In 1997 he joined MIT Lincoln Laboratory and the MIT Center for Cancer Research and invented the CANARY biosensor, which uses genetically engineered lymphocytes to identify pathogens within seconds with very high accuracy and sensitivity. He engineered and demonstrated the first CANARY cell lines, as reported in his widely publicized 2003 Science paper. Dr. Rider invented the DRACO antiviral approach, designed the therapeutics and experiments, personally conducted many of the in vitro and in vivo experiments, and recruited and supervised a team in carrying out the rest.

His DRACO research has been called “visionary” by the White House (National Bioeconomy Blueprint, April 2012, p. 9), named one of the best inventions of the year by Time magazine (November 28, 2011, pp. 58, 78), and featured on the BBC Horizons TV program (2013). He has also invented additional PANACEA anti-pathogen therapeutics, novel high-energy biofuel cells, and other projects. Along the way, Dr. Rider founded and runs the Science on Saturday program and other K-12 science outreach programs at MIT.

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