COVID-19: Drug Development During a Pandemic
Virus-associated diseases have become a global threat, with several new epidemics/pandemics erupting in the past 50 years. HIV/AIDS is treated with drug combinations, and a vaccine was recently approved to treat Ebola virus disease. Coronaviruses remain untreatable, however. This family of closely related RNA viruses is responsible for several respiratory disease epidemics, starting with the original SARS and MERS events in the early 2000s, which gave rise to efforts to find a suitable therapeutic agent. Because these initial episodes were localized and did not lead to large numbers of deaths or massive societal disruption, the search for drugs to treat them lost steam. Although a few clinical trials were initiated, no coronavirus therapeutic was approved. The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic caused by SARS Coronavirus-2 (SARS-Cov2) has rekindled a high level of urgency in the search for coronavirus drugs.
The Current Status of Coronavirus Drugs
Several clinical trials are underway for treatment of Covid-19, mainly for repurposed approved drugs or vaccines and other biologicals. Development and deployment of a successful Covid-19 vaccine is likely to take more than a year, and the vaccine may not protect everyone. Potential coronavirus targets have been identified in extensive studies of the SARS, NL3, and MERS viruses; these include structural proteins and enzymes, e.g., coronavirus main proteinase (3CLPro), papain-like protease (PLPro), RNA-dependent RNA Polymerase (RdRP), spike glycoprotein, and helicase. While nucleoside analogues currently show promise, coronaviruses encode a proofreading exoribonuclease that blocks inhibition by many nucleoside analogues. Protease inhibitors, successful in HIV/AIDS therapy, block coronavirus replication and the ability of the virus to compromise host immune defenses; they are also being explored as potential therapeutics.
Progenra’s Approach for Novel Coronavirus Drugs
Given the lack of Covid-19 targeted drugs, Progenra, Inc. is taking a radical approach in exploiting the ubiquitin proteasome system for rapid development of Covid-19 therapeutics. Leveraging its UbiPro™ Drug Discovery Platform we have developed novel, molecules with potent antiviral drug properties.