COVID-19 drug lead treatments identified

An international team of researchers has tested more than 10,000 compounds to identify six drug candidates that may help treat COVID-19.

The research, involving University of Queensland scientist Professor Luke Guddat, tested the efficacy of approved drugs, drug candidates in clinical trials and other compounds.

"Currently there are no targeted therapeutics or effective treatment options for COVID-19," Professor Guddat said.

"In order to rapidly discover lead compounds for clinical use, we initiated a program of high-throughput drug screening, both in laboratories and also using the latest computer software to predict how different drugs bind to the virus.

Professor Guddat said the project targeted the main COVID-19 virus enzyme, known as the main protease or Mpro, which plays a pivotal role in mediating viral replication.

"This makes it an attractive drug target for this virus, and as people don't naturally have this enzyme, compounds that target it are likely to have low toxicity.

"We add the drugs directly to the enzyme or to cell cultures growing the virus and assess how much of each compound is required to stop the enzyme from working or to kill the virus.

"If the amount is small, then we have a promising compound for further studies."

After assaying thousands of drugs, researchers found of the six that appear to be effective in inhibiting the enzyme, one is of particular interest.

"We're particularly looking at several leads that have been subjected to clinical trials including for the prevention and treatment of various disorders such as cardiovascular diseases, arthritis, stroke, atherosclerosis and cancer," Professor Guddat said.

"Compounds that are already along the pipeline to drug discovery are preferred, as they can be further tested as antivirals at an accelerated rate compared to new drug leads that would have to go through this process from scratch."

After the enzyme's structure was made public, the team received more than 300 requests for more information, even before the paper was published.

"To provide an analogy, we've provided scientists with a fishing pole, the line and the exact bait, and have in only one month caught some fish," Professor Guddat said.

"Now it's up to us and the other fisherman - our fellow scientists globally - to take full advantage of this breakthrough."

"With continued and up-scaled efforts we are optimistic that new candidates can enter the COVID-19 drug discovery pipeline in the near future."

Zhenming Jin, Xiaoyu Du, Yechun Xu, Yongqiang Deng, Meiqin Liu, Yao Zhao, Bing Zhang, Xiaofeng Li, Leike Zhang, Chao Peng, Yinkai Duan, Jing Yu, Lin Wang, Kailin Yang, Fengjiang Liu, Rendi Jiang, Xinglou Yang, Tian You, Xiaoce Liu, Xiuna Yang, Fang Bai, Hong Liu, Xiang Liu, Luke W Guddat, Wenqing Xu, Gengfu Xiao, Chengfeng Qin, Zhengli Shi, Hualiang Jiang, Zihe Rao, Haitao Yang
Structure of Mpro from COVID-19 virus and discovery of its inhibitors.
Nature, 2020. doi: 10.1038/s41586-020-2223-y.

Most Popular Now

Novartis announces plan to initiate clinical trial…

Novartis today announced plans to initiate a Phase III clinical trial to study canakinumab in patients with COVID-19 pneumonia. The CAN-COVID trial will examine the effic...

Gilead announces results from Phase 3 trial of inv…

Gilead Sciences, Inc. (Nasdaq: GILD) announced topline results from the open-label, Phase 3 SIMPLE trial evaluating 5-day and 10-day dosing durations of the investigation...

AstraZeneca and Oxford University announce landmar…

AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford announced an agreement for the global development and distribution of the University’s potential recombinant adenovirus vaccine a...

Sanofi and Regeneron provide update on U.S. Phase …

Sanofi and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ: REGN) today announced the preliminary results from the Phase 2 portion of an ongoing Phase 2/3 trial evaluating Kevzar...

Roche's COVID-19 antibody test receives FDA Emerge…

Roche (SIX: RO, ROG; OTCQX: RHHBY) announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) (1) for its new Elecsys® Ant...

Pfizer and BioNTech dose first participants in the…

Pfizer Inc. (NYSE: PFE) and BioNTech SE (Nasdaq: BNTX) announced that the first participants have been dosed in the U.S. in the Phase 1/2 clinical trial for the BNT162 va...

Arthritis drug may improve respiratory function in…

A small study in Greece found that the clinically approved anti-inflammatory drug anakinra, used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, improved respiratory function in patients ...

Frankfurt researchers discover potential targets f…

A team of biochemists and virologists at Goethe University and the Frankfurt University Hospital were able to observe how human cells change upon infection with SARS-CoV-...

Early indicators of vaccine efficacy

Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (LMU) in Munich researchers have shown that a specific class of immune cells in the blood induced by vaccination is an earlier indicator of...

Vitamin D linked to low virus death rate

A new study has found an association between low average levels of vitamin D and high numbers of COVID-19 cases and mortality rates across 20 European countries. The r...

Loss of smell associated with milder clinical cour…

Following an earlier study that validated the loss of smell and taste as indicators of SARS-CoV-2 infection, researchers at UC San Diego Health report in newly published ...

Can an existing HIV medication slow the spread of …

A team of scientists from St. Michael's Hospital, Sinai Health and Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre have launched a clinical trial to understand whether an existing drug...