COVID19 update, March 25, 2020: yet another drug target

  1. According to a recent report by Johns Hopkins University, the USA was the best (or least badly) prepared country for a pandemic .

2. Worrying evidence emerges from the CDC that survival of the virus on surfaces in unventilated rooms could be much longer than hitherto assumed—as long as 17 days (!) on the Diamond Princess.

3. Chemical and Engineering News discusses another drug target: the so-called “novel coronavirus main protease dimer” or Mpro:

This enzyme processes a polyprotein chain coded by the virus’s RNA, chopping up the chain into functional proteins that the virus then uses to assemble itself and multiply. Disrupting this key piece of the virus’s self-replication machinery could bring an infection screeching to a halt.

A group led by Rolf Hilgenfeld at the University of Lübeck now has elucidated the structure of this Mpro using synchrotron X-ray radiation, then computationally optimized an inhibitor for it: the alpha-ketoamide compound could even be inhaled rather than injected or swallowed.
(Science 2020, DOI 10.1126/science.abb3405).

This is an angle I hadn’t yet given thought to — and it could be a very selective drug, which should minimize side effects. Staying tuned for this one.

Also at C&EN, this article about repurposing existing arthritis drugs to mitigate “cytokine storm” in severely ill COVID-19 patients.

Be well, be healthy, be safe, be calm!

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