Oxana Denisova's dissertation shows the potential of small molecule inhibitors as next-generation anti-influenza drugs

Infections with influenza virus vary from asymptomatic to serious complicated illnesses. Currently, four licensed anti-influenza drugs are available for the prevention and treatment of influenza virus infections. However, resistance to these antivirals has been already reported. Therefore, there is a need for next-generation antiviral agents to combat influenza virus infection. This has been the main aim of the doctoral dissertation of M.Sc. Oxana Denisova to be publicly examined on 9th May 2014.

Oxana Denisova has done her Ph.D. thesis at the Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland (FIMM) and in the Department of Bacteriology and Immunology, Haartman Institute, Faculty of Medicine, University of Helsinki. Her dissertation, "Influenza virus-host interactions and their modulation by small molecules", was supervised by Dr. Denis Kainov. The thesis consists of four publications.

Oxana’s background is in molecular biology and genetics. She graduated in 2007 from the Lobachevsky State University of Nizhni Novgorod (Russia).  In 2011, she participated in the CIMO Winter School in Finland. After that she got a CIMO grant for one year and joined Dr. Denis Kainov’s lab in June 2011.

 In her thesis, Oxana has investigated influenza virus-host cell interaction in detail. She has built and  screened a library of small molecule inhibitors targeting host factors and potentially interfering with  influenza virus infection. She and her coworkers have shown that certain host functions are actively  exploited by influenza virus during infection and that these functions could be temporally inhibited with  small molecules to block influenza infection in cell culture.

 - Importantly, many of the inhibitors of these cellular functions are already approved or in clinical  development for other diseases. Drug repurposing will facilitate their introduction for treatment of viral  infections, since the pharmacokinetics and toxicity profile of these drugs are already known, Oxana  Denisova says.

- FIMM is a really cool place for conducting research, incorporating both top scientists and excellent research facilities. Yes, FIMM people are the best. They are ready to share their expertise with you, take an interest in your project and open for collaborations. It helped me a lot during my study. I am grateful for them all for that, she continues.

The public examination of Oxana Denisova’s thesis will take place on 9 May 2014 at 12:00 at the following address: University Main Building, Auditorium XII, Unioninkatu 34. Professor Stephan Ludwig, Institute of Molecular Virology, Centre for Molecular Biology of Inflammation, University of Münster, Germany, will serve as the opponent, and Professor Mikael Skurnik as the custos.

The dissertation is also available in electronic form and can be downloaded here