Academia Sinica yesterday said that it has identified protease inhibitors for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, that could eventually lead to the development of targeted drugs to stop it from replicating.
Proteases — enzymes that break down proteins — are catalysts in a range of biological processes. They are often essential for the completion of a viral infection cycle.
Protease inhibitors, which can be naturally occurring or synthetic, block viral replication. They are common in treatments for HIV and hepatitis C.
A team led by Liang Po-huang (梁博煌), a research fellow at the Institute of Biological Chemistry, has identified potent inhibitors of the virus’ main protease from more than 100 candidates, Academia Sinica said in a press release.
In in vitro tests, the best of the inhibitors was about 10 times more effective than other candidates in preventing the virus from replicating, it said.
Animal and human trials are required before the inhibitors can be turned into drugs to treat COVID-19, but finding potential inhibitors in such a short time demonstrates Taiwan’s ability to respond to the pandemic, it said.
“We look forward to providing an option for targeted drugs in the near future,” Academia Sinica said.
In February, Academia Sinica President James Liao (廖俊智) launched the COVID-19 Open Science Platform to promote collaborative research against the disease.
To date, the effort has resulted in the synthesis of remdesivir, a drug being used in clinical trials, and the production of antibodies with potential applications in rapid COVID-19 testing, Academia Sinica said.
Centers for Disease Control Director-General Chou Jih-haw (周志浩) said at the Central Epidemic Command Center’s (CECC) daily news briefing that it welcomes any breakthroughs in COVID-19 research.
The CECC would gather information about the researchers’ progress, Chou said, adding that he hopes treatments to ease the pandemic would be launched soon.
Additional reporting by Lin Chia-nan
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