UCD Covid-19 Response

The UCD Community is rising to the challenge posed by the global pandemic

Towards stopping the Covid-19 virus from hijacking cells

Lead Researcher: Dr Virginie GautierUCD Centre for Experimental Pathogen Host Research and UCD School of Medicine


SARS-CoV-2 is the newly identified coronavirus responsible for the current Covid-19 pandemic. To tackle it, we need find effective compounds or substances that can work against the virus. Science Foundation Ireland is funding a project to identify drugs or potential drugs that can target the virus when it is in the body, and particularly the steps it needs to take to infect us. In this way, they hope to stop the virus from ‘hijacking’ the function of our cells.

What is the issue?

We need drugs that can stop the virus that causes Covid-19 from infecting our cells and hijacking or recruiting them to establish an infection.

What will the research project do?

The study, led by University College Dublin, will explore new ways of interfering with the ability of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, to infect cells. It will focus in part on a protein in our cells that enables the virus to establish an infection, and run tests on cells in the lab to see if blocking that protein can stop the Covid-19 virus from infecting those cells.

What will the impact be?

By discovering how to interfere with SARS-CoV-2 and stop it from infecting people, the research will identify new drugs and potential drugs that can be tested for use in people.

Dr Virginie Gautier, Associate Professor in Virology and Principal Investigator in the UCD Centre for Experimental Pathogen Host Research (CEPHR), said: "Our strategy to fast-track development of novel SARS-CoV-2 antivirals capitalises on our deep understanding of how SARS-CoV-2 hijacks the host cellular machinery. Our research programme is critical to expand the repertoire of Broad-Spectrum Antiviral Agents and facilitate their translation in clinical use as part of Covid-19 treatment. Ultimately, these will be also important for future pandemic preparedness.”


Project Team

Lead Researcher: Dr Virginie Gautier

Collaborator: Dr Nicola Fletcher, UCD