Columbia teams receive $2.1 million grant to find potential antiviral drugs for 2019-nCoV

Columbia teams receive $2.1 million grant to find potential antiviral drugs for 2019-nCoV

Four research teams at Columbia University will share a $2.1 million grant to mount an aggressive effort to identify potential antiviral drugs and antibodies for use against the new coronavirus, 2019-nCoV. The funding was awarded by the Jack Ma Foundation, based in Hangzhou City, Zhejiang Province, China. As part of the project, the Columbia scientists will collaborate with academic researchers in China who are fighting to control the outbreak. The Columbia teams will pursue four different approaches to develop drugs or antibodies that prevent the virus from replicating. Each approach will draw on prior knowledge and expertise the scientists gained while working on successful antiviral therapies against HIV and hepatitis C. If administered before an infection takes place, such a drug or antibody could confer protection against infection by 2019-nCoV. In individuals who are already infected, an effective antiviral drug or antibody could block the continued growth of the virus in patients who are seriously ill. The Columbia effort is being led by David D. Ho, MD, founding scientific director of the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center and professor of medicine at Columbia. Three of the Columbia teams are in the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, and the fourth is in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. The Columbia teams will pursue projects aimed at identifying or developing two types of antiviral drugs and one type of virus-neutralizing antibody: Protease inhibitors. Viruses rely on enzymes, called proteases, to allow them to cut their larger proteins into smaller and proper components in order to replicate. Drugs that inhibit the activity of proteases have been used with tremendous success to treat HIV and hepatitis C. A team led by Alex Chavez, MD, PhD will use a new drug screening approach to rapidly screen a large number of compounds that block the protease of 2019-nCoV. His team, in conjunction with Dr. Ho, will attempt to select a handful of positive hits to develop into drug candidates, with the goal of advancing at least one compound into clinical trials. Polymerase inhibitors. In order for coronaviruses to copy their RNA and replicate, they rely on a crucial enzyme called polymerase. A Columbia team led by Stephen Goff, PhD, and Yosef Sabo, PhD, will produce large quantities this enzyme and then screen hundreds of thousands of chemical compounds to identify ones that inhibit the function of the enzyme and thereby block replication of the virus. The most promising ones will, again, be selected as drug candidates for treatment or prevention of 2019-nCoV. Related Stories



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