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A new transatlantic partnership seeks to accelerate the path to clinical trials for potential COVID-19 antiviral treatments.
Using Diamond's research on COVID-19 and research facilities, Exscientia will screen nearly every known approved and investigational drug - 15,000 clinical drug molecules - against COVID-19 drug targets to search for rapid treatments.
Diamond, the UK's national synchrotron light source, today announced a joint initiative with Exscientia, the leading artificial intelligence (AI) driven drug discovery company and Calibr, the drug development division of Scripps Research, to search for clinically approved drugs that could be viable clinical drug candidates for the rapid treatment of COVID-19.
Calibr, part of Scripps Research, is a nonprofit translational research institute dedicated to creating the next generation of medicines, has given Exscientia access to a world’s leading collection of known drugs, comprising of more than 15,000 compounds that have been approved and extensively tested for human safety in clinical trials or regulatory pre-clinical safe studies.
The collection of clinical drug molecules is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and is being shipped from the Scripps Research in La Jolla, California to Exscientia, in Oxford, UK. Exscientia will be applying biosensor platforms to screen them against several viral drug targets of SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19.
These targets include; the 3CL protease and the NSP12-NSP7-NSP8 RNA polymerase complex - both of which are vital components for how the virus replicates - and the interaction between the virus’s SPIKE protein and the human cell receptor ACE2, which enables the viruses’ entry to human cells.
Diamond Light Source and Oxford University have been working together since January to develop methods for the production of the viral proteins for drug screening and structural analysis at Diamond, which can provide an atomic level of detail in understanding how anti-viral drugs can work against the virus.
Dr Martin Redhead, Head of Quantitative Pharmacology at Exscientia, who will carry out the analysis, commented:
Given the ever-expanding scale and rapid speed at which COVID-19 is spreading, one of the most urgent needs right now is to find ways to discover an existing drug we can repurpose to treat the virus, at speed and at scale. The Scripps Research collection allows us to screen nearly every drug that has been tested in human clinical trials, against a number of virus drug targets
Professor Dave Stuart FRS, Director of Life Sciences at Diamond Light Source and MRC Professor of Structural Biology at the University, is co-ordinating the efforts between Diamond Light Source and Oxford University along with colleagues Dr Martin Walsh and Dr Jonathan Grimes. He commented:
The drugs we are testing have either been approved by the FDA for other diseases or have been extensively tested for human safety. By being able to repurpose existing molecules, we can save a lot of time in the drug discovery process, meaning a faster route to clinical trials, and potentially to treatment for patients.
Diamond Light Source is the UK's national synchrotron science facility, located at the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus in Oxfordshire.
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