COVID-19 virus is the etiological agent responsible for the 2019-2020 viral pneumonia outbreak that originated in Wuhan. There is a desperate need for new medicines to treat it and contain the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus that has shut down much of the world. A vaccine to prevent infection entirely would be even better. However, developing new vaccines takes time, and they must be rigorously tested and confirmed safe via clinical trials before they can be routinely used in humans. Compared to vaccines, antiviral drugs developed by screening and testing existing antiviral drugs for other conditions may be an earlier and faster available solution for COVID-19.
To speed up the development of new medicines, a powerful cooperative team and smart strategy combining different technologies would help. Just a couple of days ago (April 9, 2020), a paper, as accelerated article preview published online in Nature (https://nature.com/articles/s41586-020-2223-y), showed the world an exciting research finding on COVID-19 from an effective cooperative team effort in China. In this study initiated by a program of combining structure-assisted drug design, virtual drug screening and high-throughput screening, researchers identified new drug leads that target the COVID-19 virus main protease (Mpro), a key CoV enzyme, which plays a pivotal role in mediating viral replication and transcription thus being an attractive drug target for this virus.
First, a mechanism-based inhibitor, N3, was discovered by computer-aided drug design with cocrystal structure (COVID-19 Mpro – N3) determination. Then structure-based virtual screening was performed with Cinanserin, a well-characterized serotonin antagonist, being identified as the potential lead inhibitor targeting Mpro. In addition, seven active hits inhibiting Mpro with IC50 ranging from 0.67 to 21.4 μM were identified through high throughput screening against over 10,000 compounds consisting of approved drugs, clinical trial drug candidates and natural products. N3, Ebselen, and Cinanserin stood out after a series of testing including molecular docking, cell-based antiviral activity assay, quantitative real-time RT-PCR (qRT-PCR), and plaque-reduction assay. Data strongly suggested the clinical potential of ebselen for CoV treatment with its potent antiviral activity, extremely low cytotoxicity and safety in humans (It has been evaluated in a number of clinical trials).
As a drug screening expert, we are proud of being a part of the experimental material suppliers in this important publication (Approved Drug Library (Target Mol, USA) & Clinic Compound Library (Target Mol, USA)). For sure, we will continue to provide scientists all over the world with high-quality products from inhibitors to compound libraries and believe that TargetMol’s products can help yield more extraordinary discoveries in the war against COVID-19.