The Senecavirus is a “new” virus, discovered several years ago by Neotropix Inc., a biotech company in Malvern, Pennsylvania. It was at first thought to be a laboratory contaminant, but researchers found it was a pathogen, now believed to originate from cows or pigs. Further investigation found that the virus was harmless to normal human cells, but could infect certain solid tumors, such as small cell lung cancer, the most common form of lung cancer.
Scientists at Neotrophix say that, in laboratory and animal studies, the virus demonstrates cancer-killing specificity that is 10,000 times higher than that seen in traditional chemotherapeutics, with no overt toxicity. The company has developed the “oncolytic” virus as an anti-cancer agent and is already conducting early phase clinical trials in patients with lung cancer.
The 3-D structure of the virus, officially known as Seneca Valley Virus-001, reveals that it is unlike any other known member of the Picornaviridae viral family, and confirms its recent designation as a separate genus, Senecavirus. A new study reveals that the virus’s outer protein shell looks like a craggy golf ball¬—one with uneven divets and raised spikes—and the RNA strand beneath it is arranged in a round mesh rather like a whiffleball.