The rapid world-wide spread COVID-19 with high lethality numbers manifests the urgent need for new therapeutic approaches to block viral replication and to attenuate the lung damage caused by cytokine burst particularly in critically ill patients. A similar virus-induced immunopathological hypercytokinemia occurs during lethal infections of humans with highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses (HPAIV). We have unraveled that the cellular Raf/MEK/ERK kinase (MAPK) pathway plays a critical role, both in influenza virus (IAV) replication as well as in SARS-CoV-2 propagation. We hypothesize that the Raf/MEK/ERK pathway plays a dual role in the COVID-19 disease by controlling viral replication as well as virus-induced cytokine expression. This hypothesis will now be proven using diverse methods and specific clinically pre-evaluated inhibitors towards novel therapeutic approaches.
Research area: Molecular virology, signalling
Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Stephan Ludwig
Funding Period: July 2020 - June 2024