CORONAVIRUS/Taiwanese team identifies 4 potential antiviral drugs for COVID-19

02/23/2021 07:29 PM
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Yang Jinn-moon, dean of College of Biological Science and Technology at National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University, explains the research team
Yang Jinn-moon, dean of College of Biological Science and Technology at National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University, explains the research team's discovery. CNA photo Feb. 23, 2021

Taipei, Feb. 23 (CNA) A research team from a domestic university has identified four promising antiviral drug candidates that can inhibit the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, the team leader said Tuesday.

One of the drug candidates -- JMY206 -- is more than 10 times stronger than remdesivir, the first antiviral drug fully certified for the treatment of COVID-19 patients, said Yang Jinn-moon (楊進木), dean of College of Biological Science and Technology at National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University (NYCU), who led the research team.

The other drugs identified as being able to inhibit SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, are boceprevir, an oral, direct acting hepatitis C virus (HCV) protease inhibitor; telaprevir, a hepatitis C drug; and nelfinavir, an antiretroviral drug used to treat human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), Yang said.

The team's starting point was its understanding that SARS-CoV-2 is highly similar to the virus that causes severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), Yang said.

It then gathered SARS-related data and screened U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved drugs and natural products for possible COVID-19 drug treatments, according to Yang.

By using artificial intelligence and big data, the team created simulations of changes in cell mechanisms after SARS-CoV-2 entered human host cells and compared them with 250 images published around the world of the three-dimensional architecture of the main protease of SARS-CoV-2.

That resulted in the identification of six possible structures of key proteases -- the enzymes that break down proteins and can lead to disease -- that are essential for promoting SARS-CoV-2 viral entry, Yang said.

By identifying these structures, the team then identified four types of drugs that could inhibit these proteases and consequently the virus.

The most potent, called JMY206, can inhibit the SARS-CoV-2 virus from entering the host cell and comes with a potency that is at least 10 times stronger than remdesivir.

The therapeutic benefits of JMY 206 have also been proven in animal experiments and it can be a potential oral drug against COVID-19, Yang said.

The team is applying to patent its discovery and planning to publish a paper on it and develop new medicines by combining other medicinal components.

(By Hsu Chih-wei and Evelyn Kao)

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