Science

Harnessing the human commensal virome.

Viruses as Therapies

What if … The ideal viral vector exists within our human virome

In the past few decades, viruses have been transformed into life-saving therapies, including for vaccine development and certain cancer treatments.

One of the most recent advancements in using viruses to fight human disease is gene therapy — engineering viruses to replace or fix genetic defects.

As game-changing as these viral-based gene therapies are, many barriers, most notably immunogenicity, still limit their therapeutic potential.

Challenges with current viral-based gene therapies

But what if we could harness the power of viruses naturally resident in humans to address limited breadth, inability to redose, and poor tolerability hindering genetic medicines?

The commensal virome

Anelloviruses have evolved and lived in harmony with us for millions of years

Over the past few decades, virologists have worked to illuminate the ‘viral dark matter’ associated with humans, uncovering an expansive and diverse human virome. Notably, some of these viruses are harmless and can live within us for extended periods without detrimental outcomes. That’s the hallmark of commensalism: a symbiotic relationship where one organism benefits and the other is not affected.

Virologists at Ring uncovered a large family of diverse viruses called anelloviruses, that constitute the majority of the human commensal virome. Anelloviruses are stealthy, inhabiting numerous tissue types without triggering the immune system’s alarm. Once inside the cell, the viral genome remains as a stable episomal element, a single-stranded ring of DNA adjacent to our own genome.

Anelloviruses have coevolved with us over millennia, in a symbiotic relationship never before described in humans and that we’re only beginning to fully understand.

We believe anelloviruses present in virtually every person and a diverse array of tissues represent an opportunity to create a revolutionary programmable platform to engineer viral vectors capable of safely addressing a large range of diseases with greater precision and dose adjustability.