By Matthew Keck — 

University of Louisville researchers are using computers from schools across Kentucky to aid their search to find a drug that fights COVID-19. These computers are a part of DataseamGrid, which was developed to support research, education and workforce development in these schools.

Deputy director of basic and translational research at U of L Health – James Graham Brown Cancer Center, John Trent is helping conduct this research. By using virtual screening on the DataseamGrid, Trent and researchers are able to identify drugs that can potentially fight COVID-19.

“We’re applying all of the methods we use for cancer drug discovery to the new COVID-19 proteins that have been dried recently,” said Trent. He said that they have retooled their research to target these new proteins.

Trent and his team began this research in mid-March to help identify drugs and compounds that could help in treating or preventing COVID-19. Up to 80 percent of the computation used for the research comes from the DataseamGrid.

Their first approach in this research is to test 2,000 drugs that are already on the market currently. In addition, they will be testing 9,000 investigational drugs and nutraceuticals that have been tested and may be the most effective against the virus.

“We take a library of small molecules and we see individually on a computer, which one fits into the place where we want to block particular activities,” said Trent.

The molecular part of this research involves screening 37 million molecules to see which ones target the protein in SARS-CoV-2. This testing could help develop a new drug to treat COVID-19, but would have to be approved by the FDA.

“For the immediate approach, we are testing drugs that already are approved by the FDA or have been tested in humans. If we find activity with those drugs, we could get them into patient trials a lot quicker,” Trent said. “However, these drugs obviously were designed for something else and they may not have the same efficacy of a very selective drug.”

They have identified 30 potentially effective drugs that may treat the virus. These drugs are being tested in the U of L Center for Preventive Medicine for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases (CPM).

If any of those drugs are found to be effective at CPM, they will be moved into the next phase of testing.

Photo Courtesy of the University of Louisville 

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