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Potential new SARS-CoV-2 inhibitors found by Shenzhen researchers


A joint team of top Shenzhen researchers has worked together to find a list of potential inhibitors of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Their cutting-edge work could find new purposes for existing medication while developing new drugs to potentially prevent infections from future coronavirus.

Two teams from Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech) worked with Shenzhen University (SZU) General Hospital. The two teams from SUSTech were led by Guanyu Wang (Biology) and Jian Zhang (Medicine), while Haiying Li led the team from SZU General Hospital. Their research was published on the preprint server, Research Square, under the title, “in silico Screening of Potential Spike Glycoprotein Inhibitors of SARS-CoV-2 with Drug Repurposing Strategy.”

COVID-19 has globally spread and has become a new pandemic. At the time of publication, there are no effective drugs or vaccines to treat or prevent this disease. SARS-Cov-2 invades human cells through its spike proteins interacting with human ACE2 receptors. One strategy to prevent the virus from entering cells is the interruption of the viral spike protein interacting with ACE2. In such an emergent situation, drug repurposing is a promising method for rapid drug development.

As part of the outbreak, the research teams took a “drug repurposing” strategy to try and find prospective inhibitors. They selected around 15,000 molecular candidates, including FDA-approved drugs from DrugBank and natural compounds from TCMSP, to perform virtual screening for potential molecules that can target viral spike protein based on its crystal structure.

The researchers found several compounds that bind very tightly to the crown spines of the coronavirus. These spines are the receptors that bind to the host cell to infect people. Thus, finding molecular compounds that bind to them and effectively inhibit (prevent) them from binding to the cells of humans is vital.

At least one HIV inhibitor and several natural products were among the compounds that bind tightly to the coronavirus cells. The research teams also found that many of the natural products derive from a wide range of traditional Chinese herbal medicines. Aoba and Forsythia have been included in the National New Coronavirus Pneumonia Diagnosis and Treatment Program.

This paper provides a solid foundation for further developing clinical drugs that inhibit infection from COVID-19. Further experiments are underway to test the molecular compounds.

SUSTech Department of Biology doctoral candidate Tianzi Wei and SZU General Hospital associate researcher Hao Wang are the co-first authors of the paper. SUSTech School of Medicine Professor Jian Zhang, Department of Biology Associate Professor Guangyu Wang, and SZU General Hospital Professor and Chief Physician Haiying Li are the co-corresponding authors.

The research received support from SUSTech and SZU General Hospital.

Article link: https://www.researchsquare.com/article/rs-17720/v1