As do humans, viruses rely on nucleic acids - DNA or RNA - to encode their structures and act as templates for replication. Edward Budowsky, Pentose Pharmaceuticals Inc.'s scientific founder and an expert on nucleic acid chemistry, reasoned that this fundamental role of nucleic acids in viral function made them a good target to attack with antiviral therapies.

Pentose's approach relies on the company's knowledge of nucleic acid reactivity with various classes of small molecules, especially compounds that interact with nucleic acids but have no significant effects on proteins or other molecules. Based on this expertise, the company has developed two programs. Inactine is a broad spectrum viral inactivation molecule for protecting the blood supply, and Papirine is a series of small molecules that induce human cellular responses to viral infection.