By Amanda Lee, Senior Assistant Manager (Media), Communications and Outreach
"Some of these proteins are responsible for replication, so that's the area at the moment that our lab is interested in. Within this complex, the N2B-NS3 protease is one essential component and it's responsible to process the polyprotein to make them mature and functional," explained Asst Prof Luo.
"Obviously if the protease is essential in replication, it can be considered as a target to develop an antiviral drug. This is why we are interested in this viral target as we want to better understand it and hopefully develop an inhibitor and kill the virus," he added.
The NS2B-NS3 protease project is one of the major projects that Asst Prof Luo's team is currently working on. His team is also researching on chikungunya virus. "Here, we are focused on the virus replication process, how it is propagated. At the same time, we try to step out of our comfort zone so we pick up the chikungunya virus. That's less well-known than dengue or Zika, but with outbreaks from time to time".
"In the literature, there's very little known about the chikungunya virus; we consider that as an opportunity because less is known," he said.
As an expert in the molecular biology of viruses, Asst Prof Luo shared that flaviviruses such as Zika and dengue are easily spread due to human density. While the most effective way to eliminate the viruses is by killing the mosquitoes, it is not realistic and with unpredictable consequence to eliminate a species from the planet, he added.
"It may be effective to control the mosquitoes in Singapore because we are a city-state, as compared to other countries. However, in the long run, whether it's for Singapore or the world, you still need a vaccine or antivirus against these diseases," said Asst Prof Luo. That's the mission that Asst Prof Luo has set his sights on.