In April, the magazine Science published an article on the development of drugs and active substances that could cure COVID-19 patients or at least ease their symptoms. The article with the title "X-ray screening identifies active site and allosteric inhibitors of SARS-CoV-2 main protease" was a joint product of a consortium of scientists from 30 European scientific institutions including the team led by Dušan Turk from the Department of Biochemistry & Molecular & Structural Biology at the Jozef Stefan Institute. The consortium is led by the Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron (DESY) at the University of Hamburg.
The joint research discovered 37 compounds that bind to the main protease of the SARS-CoV-2 virus – some compounds showed antiviral activity at non-toxic concentrations. Furthermore, the consortium identified two allosteric binding sites representing “attractive targets” for drug development. The research overall highlighted eleven substances that could be tested by medical science and the pharmaceutical industry and be potentially used in practice.
Vaccination is a helpful tool yet does not provide a lasting solution to the epidemic. It offers only short-term protection, the production capacities are limited, and it is unsure whether the vaccines will work against new mutations of the virus. So far, no effective drug is available for effective treatment of the disease. The article in Science magazine attracted substantial attention in the scientific community and will hopefully lead to further steps in the development of a cure.