New Israeli tactic makes deadly viruses commit suicide

Vecoy Nanomedicines has a whole new approach: a virus ‘decoy’ to outwit the world’s worst enemy before it does any damage.

There’s the West Nile Virus forging a deadly path in North America, and a new round of Ebola in Africa. Then there’s bird flu, SARS and a handful of other rampant and unusually evil viruses circling the globe. Any new super virus out of control could be far worse than the Spanish flu outbreak of 1918, which killed 40 million people in just two years, says Israeli biologist Erez Livneh, CEO and founder of a new biotech company Vecoy Nanomedicines.

“Viruses are one of the biggest threats to humankind,” Livneh tells ISRAEL21c. “A viral pandemic could be more damaging than global warming or the Iranian nuclear program.”

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Vecoy offers a cunning new way to disarm viruses by luring them to attack microscopic, cell-like decoys. Once inside these traps, the viruses effectively commit suicide.

Livneh presented his invention to colleagues in 2010, when he represented Israel at the multinational program of the Singularity University, based at NASA’s Ames Research base in California. He explained that Vecoy technology can capture and neutralize a wide range of deadly viruses, including resistant strains for which there are no vaccinations or cures.

“Viruses are one of the most polymorphic and resilient organisms out there,” says Livneh. “They are rapidly changing, and can change anything in their genome, either by changing their exterior so our immune system wouldn’t recognize them or by changing their enzymes so that the handful of drugs we have won’t affect them anymore.”

Yet all viruses, he notes, have one unchangeable Achilles heel: their cell host recognition site. Vecoy uses nanotechnology to give the virus two choices: either latch on to the Vecoy host trap or mutate in such a way that it cannot penetrate real host cells. In both scenarios, the end result is bad news for the virus.

“That is why, in theory, a virus cannot develop adaptive resistance to our traps,” says Livneh.

A cure, not just damage control

While vaccines, a 200-year-old invention, are a great prophylactic and have largely eradicated polio and smallpox, some viruses, such as HIV, elude vaccines. And anti-viral drugs attempt to block viruses from multiplying further from already infected cells.

Erez Livneh at NASA’s Ames Research Base. Photo by Matt Rutherford
Erez Livneh at NASA’s Ames Research Base. Photo by Matt Rutherford

“The trouble is, this is a bit too late; it’s damage control more than a cure,” explains Livneh. “Our virus-traps meet the viruses on their turf, in the bloodstream where they are disarmed before they reach the cells and before the damage is done.”

While it takes years to come up with new drugs, Vecoy’s virus traps could be tailored to address emerging new viral outbreaks quickly and efficiently, even in the event of a bioterror assault. If a government sees a threat coming from an enemy nation or a potential pandemic blowing its way, Vecoy’s solution could potentially inoculate populations before peril arrives.

“With the current state of overpopulation of our planet and international flights, we are now prone more than ever before to new viral pandemics which will be very hard to contain, and it is just a matter of time,” warns Livneh. “We’d better be in a position where we can do something about it.”

Treating the usual suspects too

Besides Ebola and new emerging and highly contagious viruses, Vecoy is also targeting the usual ones many of us struggle with every day, including hepatitis B and C, the human papillomavirus and herpes. New, smarter weapons are needed against all these viruses.

Results of cell-culture and pre-clinical studies in Vecoy’s laboratories at Bar-Ilan University’s nanotechnology center are promising, showing the neutralization of 97 percent of the viruses in the culture. Efficacy is expected to rise even further.

With an international patent pending and secured angel investments, the company now seeks several million dollars to begin studies on mammals, the next step before clinical trials in human beings.

While the road is long –– at least four or five years to start clinical trials –– it is a path worth taking if these Israeli-made virus decoys can do the job.

If Livneh succeeds on his quest he will no doubt go down in the history books along with Louis Pasteur (for pasteurization), Sir Alexander Fleming (for penicillin) and Jonas Salk (polio vaccine).

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About Karin Kloosterman

Karin Kloosterman is an award-winning environment news publisher who founded Green Prophet (www.greenprophet.com) to connect North Americans to issues that matter in the Middle East. She is the CEO of the Internet of Things startup flux, a company that is making social grow tools for urban farmers everywhere (www.fluxiot.com). Karin can be reached at karin (at) fluxiot.com.
  • http://www.facebook.com/ajamrani Janice Amrani

    What an exciting idea!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mary-Brockman/1013566665 Mary Brockman

    God bless the Israelis, our true innovators

    • http://www.facebook.com/redstar709 Robert Hardy

      god bless them

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000858018168 Nancy Gail Smith

    Please let us know which virus it would kill it would be nice to know .. .Good job Livneh God was with you may you have many blessing for your hard work …..

  • http://www.facebook.com/kootje.kairupan Angelique Hanako Kairupan

    WHY surprise??? Isn’t it already known world-widely that ISRAEL is the remnants of JACOB whom had been chosen and be ordained as a blessed nation of the Lord God Almighty in Christ Jesus?..Yes, Israel is the descendants of our Father of FAITH, ABRAHAM and through his wife SARAH he begot ISAAC and through REBEKAH (Isaac’s wife) he begot JACOB, whom’s called ISRAEL. This is the only nation of this world that HER ancestors, HER forefathers… when they came out of the slavery bondage in Egypt, on their way to Canaan, the PROMISED LAND of GOD to ISRAEL’s descendants, they were given MANNA for their daily meal which is the angels’ food. So no wonder this nation has the top ranking intelligence, and the best wisdom, knowledge, and understanding how to invent new and extraordinary things as God bestowed on HER scientists, and technologists great and marvelous things according to HIS grace & mercy on HER. When ISRAEL cries out to the Lord God in CHRIST JESUS and confesses with HER mouth that JESUS CHRIST is the SON of GOD, believes in HER heart that JESUS CHRIST is the only MESSIAH, and HE is the brightness of GOD’s PERSON, and the full IMAGE & GLORY of GOD HIMSELF being manifested to MANKIND in the form of the “Son of Man”, called JESUS of NAZARETH, and bow HER knees for HIM and asking for forgiveness of HER sins & iniquities for denying HIM as GOD’s only begotten SON….then the Lord God YHVH in Christ Jesus will surely rescue HER from all HER evil enemies and banish and annihilate them from the map of the world! Hallelujah…be highly exalted the Lord God YHVH in Christ Jesus forevermore!

    • Gail

      That’s all very nice but it seems that Israel is surviving and doing wonderful things already and without the “help” of your Jesus.
      Peace

    • http://www.facebook.com/robert.rubin.180 Robert Rubin

      I’m sorry, but what does your “CHRIST JESUS” have anything to do with this incredible story and the brilliance these Israeli minds exude? Save the Jesus stuff for your evangelical lecture on a Sunday morning. This is science, and medicine, and yes the hand of G-d may have had a significant role in acting through these brilliant scientists, but your “son of man” has not fulfilled the messianic role and therefore is only the son of Mary and Joseph. Simple and straightforward. So please, don’t cast a shadow of your religious ideologies over what may be the greatest discovery EVER. Let us pray…

    • andrew

      be blessed u said it all right… and the time will come when isreal will cry out to GOD for salvation.. lets keep praying for isreal and its people for the tremendous work they have done to uplift science and agriculture today ,
      be blessed

  • http://www.facebook.com/lena.segal.5 Lena Segal

    Brilliant mind! Neutralization of 97% viruses or even more!

  • psikoanalistja

    Its very nice article,thanks a lot .

  • psikoanalistja

    it’s very nice article.

  • psikoanalistja

    wonderfully

  • Jeff edelberg

    Vecoy is the most promising solutions for treating with viral infections ourdays. Amazing work.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Palomarsun Paul Rosman

    Mazel Tov and Shannah Tova to you, your famiily, friiends and collegues! Well Done

  • Begin

    No doubt, Erez Livneh will be there in books of history as we expect! It will be an useful invention for mankind.

  • Edith

    Wonderful that Livneh is thinking outside the box; I hope we can shorten the process and get this invention out there before there is another pandemic… now we need to slow down the population explosion.

  • neela

    we are very happy. god bless you

  • http://profiles.google.com/hypatia08 Hypatia Hypatia

    Wouldn’t it be nice if the US “mainstream media” like the Israel-bashing New York Times, and CBS 60 minutes, and NPR’s Scott Simon — if they could take a few lines/minutes to mention what Israeli science is doing for the world — even for the Jew haters…

  • andrew

    brilliant brilliant love it all

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/6NOBQBPSGDIJPUBMUBHGYE4ESM CraigH

    And just how many wonderful things like this has Hammas come up with?  Israelis come up with virus suicide, Palestinians come up with 10-year old girl-bombing suicides.  Pretty easy to see which side God is on, eh?

  • http://www.facebook.com/arvindalex.dcruz Arvind Alex DCruz

    Israelis. Making the world a better place, one invention/ breakthrough at a time. Unlike the folks in their immediate vicinity who excel in destroying things , many at a time.

  • http://www.facebook.com/arvindalex.dcruz Arvind Alex DCruz

    Israelis, making the world a better place one breakthrough at a time. Unlikesome others who excel in destroying things , many at a time. 

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_FNCVOZCLJCZA655SKH23JKMRCU P

    Congrats… Great research. Keep it going..