Discovering new drug treatments for COVID-19

Posted 28 Jan 2021

With no treatment currently available to combat COVID-19, Flinders University researchers are taking steps to change that by screening hundreds of drugs to find the most promising hope for a treatment.

Dr Nicholas Eyre is carrying out high-throughput screening of 1,226 unique drug ‘scaffolds’, to analyse their ability to disrupt the interaction of two viral proteins - nsp3 and nsp4 - which are encoded by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), which causes the respiratory disease COVID-19.

He hopes to whittle this down to create a shortlist of 10-20 of the most promising drugs, and then explore the impact of the top two or three drug candidates on inhibiting the interaction of these viral proteins which is otherwise essential to replication of the virus.

“As of January 2021, SARS-CoV-2 has infected over 90 million people and caused almost two million deaths,” Dr Eyre says.

“Despite an urgent need, there are no approved antiviral therapies available to combat SARS-CoV-2 infection and global efforts to curtail the epidemic are currently limited to public health measures and newly developed vaccines.

“But this unique and sensitive approach will provide a novel avenue for SARS-CoV-2 antiviral drug development that is distinct from, but complementary to, classical drug discovery approaches employed by the pharmaceutical industry to identify viral enzyme inhibitors.”

Dr Eyre’s work is inspired by a clinically approved Hepatitis C virus protein inhibitor and antiviral drug.

Research category: COVID-19

Project title: Identification of inhibitors of SARS-CoV-2 non-structural protein (nsp3/nsp4) interaction as future antiviral therapeutics

Lead researcher: Dr Nicholas Eyre


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