Case Western Reserve University, Duke, Rutgers Researchers Aim to Fight COVID-19

Scientists at Case Western Reserve, Duke and Rutgers Universities studying the coronavirus genome have identified compounds in it that could block its ability to replicate, according to a press release.

The researchers, whose results were published Friday, November 26, in the journal Science Advances, note that the discovery could lead to cures for other future viruses.

“We reasoned that the unique shape of the virus’s RNA genome provided an opportunity to target it with small molecules that could have the potential to slow the virus’s ability to spread, and early results are encouraging,” said Blanton S. Tolbert, Rudolph and Susan Rens, professor of chemistry. at the CWRU and one of the researchers leading the project, the statement said.

The work offers untapped therapeutic potential to combat COVID-19, Amanda Hargrove, a professor of chemistry at Duke University, said in a press release.

Tolbert and Hargrove were joined by Rutgers molecular biologist and virologist Gary Brewer and Rutgers molecular biologist Mei-Ling Lee, as well as fellow staff and researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the University of Michigan and the University of Glasgow, according to the release …

“These are the first molecules with antiviral activity to specifically target the RNA of the virus, so this is a completely new mechanism in that regard,” Hargrove said in a statement.

The collaboration began in an informal meeting in February 2020 of three major research groups from CWRU, Duke and Rutgers at Duke University, Talbert said in a posting.

“We outlined the first steps to suppress SARS-CoV-2 because the group expected the virus to become a more serious public health problem than originally anticipated,” he said.

Other CWRU researchers involved in the study were from Talbert’s lab, according to the report: PhD student Le Luo; and graduate students Christina Haddad, Jesse Davila-Calderon and Liang Yuan-Chiu, who graduated from the institute.

The work builds on research that Hargrove, Tolbert and others first conducted in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic began to spread, according to the release, which notes the team has already investigated potential drug candidates to fight Enterovirus 71, another RNA virus. and a common cause of diseases of the hands, buttocks and mouth in children.

The researchers, who hold a patent for their method, plan to modify the compounds to make them more effective and then conduct animal trials “to see if this could be a viable drug candidate,” Hargrove said in a press release.

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