UCSF finds compounds that block the virus, paving way for ‘a better drug sooner’
San Francisco Chronicle
A global team of scientists led by UCSF has discovered a range of existing drugs and experimental compounds that block the new coronavirus in lab tests, revealing some of the virus’ key weaknesses for the first time. Their findings point to possible treatments for COVID-19, according to a paper released Thursday in the journal Nature.
“We’ve found something about this virus that I hope can help people,” said Nevan Krogan, a molecular biologist who directs the Quantitative Biosciences Institute at UCSF, where 22 labs have worked on the project along with teams at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York and the Institut Pasteur in Paris.
The research grew from a unique system developed by the biosciences institute to understand how viruses wreak havoc on the body.
Scientists first created a detailed map of how the coronavirus manipulates human proteins to infect cells and replicate like mad. They then used the map to find existing drugs and experimental compounds that act on those key proteins. Finally, in the lab, they tested 47 of those drug candidates against the virus, to see if the drugs interfered with infection.
According to the new paper, the tests identified two main classes of drugs and compounds that blocked the virus in different ways. Five of the drugs that showed an antiviral effect are already approved by the Food and Drug Administration to fight mental illness, malaria, menopause, coughs and allergies.
None of the five is approved to treat COVID-19, and some have dangerous side effects. The paper cautions that people with the disease should not take the drugs outside of controlled studies.