SENS6 Speaker Highlight: Todd Rider

Posted by Daniel Kimbel on July 16, 2013 | Outreach

While antibiotics have long provided broad-spectrum treatments for bacterial infections, antiviral drugs have failed to offer protection that is nearly as wide. Dr. Todd Rider, who will be speaking at SENS6, is working to change that.

Dr. Rider has led an accomplished career at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory, a facility with a strong focus on national security. He began his time at Lincoln working on missile defense, but soon decided that he wanted to transition into biological research. Lincoln Laboratory was supportive, so Dr. Rider began work on a pathogen detector that would become CANARY (Cellular Analysis and Notification of Antigen Risks and Yields). CANARY uses B-cells, and is considerably quicker and more accurate than comparable technologies.

Dr. Rider’s most recent efforts have led to a remarkable development within the PANACEA (Pharmacological Augmentation of Nonspecific Anti-pathogen Cellular Enzymes and Activities) project. This new treatment is known as DRACO, which stands for Double-stranded RNA Activated Caspase Oligomizer. Essentially, DRACO works by triggering apoptosis in cells that contain viral double-stranded RNA, an indicator that they have been infected by a virus. Non-infected cells, on the other hand, are not affected by the treatment. Based on the tests that have been performed so far, DRACO has the potential to be effective against nearly any virus. Trials done in vitro or in mice have shown that DRACO kills cells infected with the common cold, H1N1 influenza, dengue fever virus, a polio virus, and others. Meanwhile, the treatment has been shown to be nontoxic to all of the cell types tested, including those from humans.

This exciting work on DRACO and the larger PANACEA project is exactly what Dr. Rider will discuss during his presentation at SENS6. He will review the wide effectiveness that his team has observed in the treatment so far, and the promising future that DRACO could have as a safeguard against established and emerging viral threats. 

In addition to Dr. Rider’s talk, the SENS6: Reimagine Aging conference will feature presentations by such established researchers as Harvard’s George Church, Carnegie Mellon’s Alan Russell, the McGowan Institute’s Eric Lagasse, Cambridge’s Robin Franklin, and the NIH’s Felipe Sierra. We encourage you to register today to secure your seat, while tickets are still available.

Mathematical Bridge at Queens' College, Cambridge, UK, home of the SENS6 conference.