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Researchers discover new drug with potential to stop COVID-19 spread

Scripps Research targets genetic structure of virus to halt replication
Posted at 6:43 PM, Oct 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-05 18:43:36-04

JUPITER, Fla.  — The race to create a vaccine for COVID-19 is heating up and Scripps Research is exploring additional options to help stop the spread.

As the battle against COVID-19 wears on, scientists at the Jupiter campus are announcing their latest plan of attack with another breakthrough discovery.

“We want to understand the way this thing works so we can disable it,” a chemist at Scripps Research. “Our concept was to develop lead medicines capable of breaking COVID-19’s clutch. It doesn’t allow the shifting of gears.”

Scripps Research Chemistry Professor Matthew Disney has designed a potential medication which appears able to stop the virus that causes COVID-19 from making copies of itself.

The potential medicine works by interfering with the COVID-19 virus’s genetic material.

Disney describes the drug as a clutch with the potential to stop the virus from making copies of itself and eliminating the spread.

The chemist emphasized that his findings are the initial stages in a long process of refinement and research that lies ahead before the medication could be available to consumers.

Even so, the results demonstrate the feasibility of directly targeting viral RNA with small-molecule drugs, Disney says.

Their study suggests other RNA viral diseases may eventually be treated through this strategy, he adds.

“This is a proof-of-concept study,” Disney says. “We put the frameshifting element into cells and showed that our compound binds the element and degrades it. The next step will be to do this with the whole COVID virus, and then optimize the compound.”

Disney’s team collaborated with Iowa State University Assistant Professor Walter Moss, PhD, to analyze and predict the structure of molecules encoded by the viral genome, in search of its vulnerabilities.

Scripps Research Communications Director Stacey DeLoye says the process of inventing new vaccines and medicine can take several years because of the safety testing and refinement work that must be done.

“Normally it takes about a decade,” said Scripps Research Communications Director Stacey DeLoye about the drug testing process. “This is not a normal year and this is not a normal crisis, so we are hopeful it will move much faster than that.”

Other scientists at Scripps Research are working to develop vaccines.

According to DeLoye, Scripps Research virologists have developed the “payload” for a vaccine.

A company in Boston has licensed and doing further development and testing.

Even though Scripps Research stated that other vaccine candidates are further ahead, it will take many approaches to find the best possible one to prevent infections.

“With all hands now working on stopping this pandemic, the timetable for these efforts is being shortened considerably,” said DeLoye.