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09.03.2020

University of Basel investigating active substances against the coronavirus

The University of Basel is using computer-aided methods in its efforts to find an active substance to fight the coronavirus. A total of just under 700 million substances have been tested on a virtual basis. This has allowed interesting substances to be identified already.

The search for an active substance effective against the coronavirus is being advanced by a Computational Pharmacy research group at the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences of the University of Basel, as detailed in a press release. The research group is being headed up by Markus Lill and has conducted virtual screening, as part of which more than 680 million substances have already been tested on a virtual basis.

The tests are focused on an important enzyme of the coronavirus, namely the central protease. If the virus’s critical enzyme can be inhibited, this can prevent it from further multiplying. A number of “interesting substances” have already been identified. “Even if the complete development of a drug to fight this particular coronavirus is likely to exceed the duration of the current epidemic, it is important to develop drugs for future coronaviruses”, Lill explains in the press release.

The Basel-based research group’s recent work should serve as a foundation. This is also illustrated by the fact that the research group has taken the decision to immediately make “the test results publicly available in the form of an open-source preprint”. The aim of the Basel researchers is therefore to allow other research groups to make use of their proposals and test potential drug candidates themselves. This approach is rooted in the current emergency situation, given that it is otherwise customary for interesting substances to be first experimentally tested together with other research groups before the results are patented and published, the press release states.

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