The current global COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically limited the ways that people, businesses and institutions may conduct their regular activities, and imposed devastating social and economic burdens on all parts of society. Without an effective vaccine and clinical antiviral agents for control and treatment of the SARS CoV 2 viral pathogen, it will not be possible for life to return to normal, with regular social contact or large public gatherings.
The work of Dr Daniel Furkert and his team forms a small part of an encouragingly rapid and highly cooperative worldwide effort to develop and evaluate many possible antiviral drugs, to identify those few that can be advanced through clinical trials into therapeutic use. The drug class they are investigating has a strong record in successful use against other pathogens including hepatitis, so there is a proven pathway for these agents to be successfully developed using a rational design process.
The team will use new advances in computer hardware to design and optimise candidate drug compounds using high-level molecular modelling techniques, including dynamic simulations that can address the flexible and fluid nature of protein structures, and then prepare the best of these for antiviral testing by colleagues. Through their work they aim to build new drug molecules that can bind specifically and tightly to key parts of the virus to prevent its replication in a human host.
This information will help the team and other groups worldwide to understand how the SARS CoV-2 can be targeted, and identify and prepare the exact chemical structures that should be used to assemble an effective antiviral drug.