Scientists Scour FDA-Approved Drugs for Potential Coronavirus Treatment

As part of a working group spread across 22 laboratories, a team of scientists at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF)–based Quantitative Biosciences Institute (QBI) Coronavirus Research Group has identified 50 drugs that may be able to treat patients with COVID-19 (coronavirus). Many of these drugs are already FDA-approved to treat other diseases, such as cancer.

Meanwhile, scientists at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York and the Pasteur Institute in Paris have started testing these drugs against the coronavirus.

In February, when a woman in California tested positive for the coronavirus even though she had not traveled outside the U.S., Nevan Krogan, PhD, Director of QBI, said, “I got to the lab and said we’ve got to drop everything else. Everybody has got to work around the clock on this.”

Within a few weeks, Dr. Krogan and his colleagues had synthesized genes from the coronavirus and injected them into cells, identifying more than 400 proteins that the virus relies on to grow. At UCSF, chemist Kevan Shokat, PhD, and his team have been investigating 20,000 FDA-approved drugs to see whether they interact with those proteins. As of mid-March, they had discovered 50 candidates that the working group has started to test against the coronavirus, which researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital have recently started to grow in monkey cells. Potential treatments will undergo animal testing before entering human clinical trials.

Source: The New York Times, March 17, 2020.