COVID Moonshot, a nonprofit, open science consortium of scientists around the world dedicated to finding affordable and easy to manufacture antiviral drugs globally against COVID-19 and future viral pandemics has received funding Wellcome’s £ 8million key, on behalf of the Covid-19 Therapeutic Accelerator.
In the face of global vaccine inequality and the rapid spread of worrisome variants, the need for readily available antiviral treatments to treat people with COVID-19 is more pressing than ever, especially in low- and middle-income countries. “
Annette von Delft, Translational Scientist, University of Oxford and NIHR Oxford Biomedical Research Center
“Most of the research and funding efforts at the onset of the pandemic mainly focused on the reuse of existing small molecule drugs and the more rapid development of new monoclonal antibodies. Now, with the realization that COVID-19 will be a global problem for the foreseeable future, we urgently need to develop new antiviral therapies. We are therefore delighted to receive this vital funding from Wellcome and hope that it can lead to more support, ”said Alpha Lee, Scientific Director of PostEra and faculty member at the University of Cambridge.
The Moonshot began as a spontaneous virtual collaboration in March 2020. As countries were locked down, a group of scientists, academics, pharmaceutical research teams and students began a global race against time fueled by Twitter. to identify new molecules that could block SARS-CoV -2 infection and develop pills that would be readily available to the most vulnerable communities.
Ultimately, more than 150 scientists – including dozens of students who put their own projects on hold – joined Moonshot to research ideas for molecular compounds, model them, and evaluate them in vitro against the virus. Their goal: safe, globally affordable, non-profit oral treatment for COVID-19 and associated viral pandemics.
“Open drug discovery efforts are invariably very slow – ours has been an express train on tracks that we have had to chart as we go,” wrote Frank von Delft, professor of structural chemical biology at the University. of Oxford and Beam Online Senior Scientist at Diamond. Source of light, in a commentary published in June in Nature. “It’s a way of working that none of us realized was possible.”
Collaborators on the Moonshot project include academic and industry groups such as Diamond Light Source, the UK’s national synchrotron; Weizmann Institute of Science (Israel); Oxford University’s Nuffield Department of Medicine (UK); PostEra (US / UK); Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (United States); various drug discovery consultants, including MedChemica Ltd (UK), Thames Pharma Partners (US) and Compass Business Partners (UK); and the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (Switzerland), which now takes the lead in coordinating the Wellcome-funded campaign to the clinic.
Thanks to this unprecedented collaboration, rapid progress has been made and the team now aims to identify preclinical candidate molecules by the end of 2021 – compounds that will be simple to manufacture in pill form and that will exert an anti-viral effect. via potent inhibition of the main protease (MPro) of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The project is now entering the most capital-intensive phase: fine-tuning, optimizing and testing these molecules to develop them into a safe treatment. Wellcome’s financial support will be essential in this process.
“Since its inception, this project has focused on the needs of low- and middle-income countries and the most vulnerable communities, striving to identify drugs that eliminate the need for a cold chain or injection, and ensuring that the results are equitably accessible. ‘said Ben Perry, head of open innovation in discovery at DNDi. “The project is firmly anchored in an open scientific environment and favors the simplicity of synthesis of future drugs, in order to facilitate manufacture by any interested producer.”
“If the drug discovery efforts that were launched during the 2003 SARS epidemic had persisted and had been funded to completion, the relevant anti-coronavirus drugs would have been more readily available when COVID-19 hit.” said Nir London, senior scientist at the Weizmann Institute of Science.
“Now is the time to plan for the future. In addition to fighting this current pandemic, which is not showing signs of slowing down, we want to develop one or more new pan-coronavirus antiviral molecules for future epidemics. We also want to provide an open platform to speed up response time when new pandemics arise.
All scientific discovery data generated and general learnings from the project will be placed in the public domain. Moonshot’s data is already available online to allow others to freely build on its work – the project has already generated more than 50% of the known structural information on the major protease, a key protein in SARS-CoV – 2. The first clinical trials are expected in 2022.
Neglected Disease Drugs Initiative
von Delft, F., et al. (2021) A tour de force in the open discovery of COVID drugs. Nature. doi.org/10.1038/d41586-021-01571-1.