The Universities of Dundee and Edinburgh have been chosen to join a pan-European consortium to develop therapies for Covid-19 and future coronaviruses.
The five-year, 77.7-million-euro (£70 million) Corona Accelerated R&D in Europe (CARE) project will bring together 37 partners from across Europe, along with China and the US, to find new drugs to treat coronavirus patients.
Funding will be provided by the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI), a partnership between the European Union and the European pharmaceutical industry.
The partners come from academic and non-profit research institutions and pharmaceutical companies, with Edinburgh and Dundee representing the only UK-based academic institutions in the programme.
The University of Dundee will provide its expertise to find antiviral treatments for Covid-19 and future coronaviruses. The consortium has identified chemical start points that Dundee’s Drug Discovery Unit (DDU) will use to develop candidate drugs to inhibit the disease.
DDU Head Professor Paul Wyatt said: “We are in the early stage of what will be a long-term fight. The virus that causes Covid-19 can only replicate by taking over the machinery of a host cell. In doing so it prevents the host cell from working properly, causing organ damage. We are therefore looking for candidate drugs that can stop Covid-19 from infecting new cells or replicating once it has infected a cell.”
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Meanwhile, the team from the University of Edinburgh will use lab-grown human cells to examine the actions of SARS-CoV-2 and other common cold coronaviruses to identify proteins for the drugs to target.
With many clinically available drugs targeting human proteins, they can be quickly and easily tested and repurposed against Covid-19. The team will also investigate new drugs that have yet to be used clinically.
Edinburgh University’s Head of Infection Medicine Professor Jurgen Haas said: “Covid-19 is a global problem that requires a global solution. By working with many other organisations across the world, we hope to reduce the time needed to develop a new treatment for this disease.”
Once laboratory testing is finished, the universities will start using the most promising drug candidates in human clinical trials.