Researchers identify drug target for COVID-19

March 6, 2020

Scientists have identified a potential drug target in a newly mapped protein of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Mapping a 3D protein structure of the virus, also called solving the structure, allows scientists to figure out how to interfere in the pathogen’s replication in human cells.

The protein structure was identified by a team from the University of Chicago, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and the University of California, Riverside, School of Medicine.

Their findings suggest that drugs that had previously been in development to treat the earlier SARS outbreak could now be developed as effective drugs against COVID-19, the scientists said.

The protein Nsp15 from Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is 89 percent identical to the protein from the earlier outbreak of SARS-CoV, the scientists said. Because studies published in 2010 on SARS-CoV revealed that inhibition of Nsp15 can slow viral replication, the scientists believe that drugs designed to target Nsp15 could be developed as effective drugs against COVID-19.

The structure of Nsp15 was released to the scientific community on March 4 on the RSCB Protein Data Bank. The scientists also plan to map the structure of some of the other 28 proteins in the virus in order to see where to target drugs.

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