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Chapter 21 : A Crusade for Drugs to Conquer Viruses
Under the leadership of the author, the Rega Institute, which celebrated its fiftieth anniversary in 2004, has grown to be a world-renowned center for research on nucleoside analogues, antivirals, anti-HIV drugs, cytokines, and chemokines. Today it is one of the world's leading academic centers for antiviral research. This section talks about the 1983 description of the synthesis and antiviral properties of aminoacyl esters of acyclovir, which led to the development of the valyl ester (valacyclovir) for the oral treatment of herpes simplex virus (HSV) and VZV infections, and also talks about the 1985 description of the principle of combined gene therapy/chemotherapy of cancer by using antiviral agents such as ganciclovir and BVDU that are highly and specifically cytostatic to tumor cells transfected by the HSV-1 (HSV-2 or VZV) thymidine kinase gene. The collaborative centers are located in five continents and help to establish and maintain a leading position in the field. The author's most tangible and most rewarding contributions are his discoveries that have led to a panoply of new antiviral drugs that have met medical needs and helped alleviate the symptoms, if not saved the lives, of patients suffering from the most severe and often life-threatening viral infections.