The QCRG (Quantitative Biosciences Institute Coronavirus Research Group) Pandemic Response Program is an interdisciplinary program that aims to identify new direct-acting antivirals for SARS-CoV-2 and 19 other viruses. The project brings together a team of 43 investigators from 14 different institutions in this proposal with a history of collaboration; 31 of these have co-published together on 41 papers on SARS-CoV-2, efforts that have laid a strong foundation to be one of the NIH Antiviral Drug Discovery (AViDD) Centers for Pathogens of Pandemic Concern.
Initially, the QCRG will focus on eight target classes from eight viral families (Coronaviridae, Picornaviridae, Togaviridae, Flaviviridae, Hantaviridae, Arenaviridae, Nairoviridae and Paramyxoviridae), including seven coronaviruses, with a focus on SARS-CoV-2, where the viral RNA and 10 proteins will be targeted. In addition to the SARS-CoV-2 RNA (Project 1), these will include the Nsp3 PLP and Nsp5 Mpro proteases (Project 2); the Nsp3 macrodomain (Project 5); the RdRp polymerase, Nsp7, Nsp8 and Nsp12 (Project 2) the structural proteins E (Project 3), and M (Projects 3); and the methyltransferases Nsp10/14 and Nsp16 (Project 4). Although we will focus on SARS-CoV-2, related proteins from 19 other viruses will also be targeted. Using the QCRG Drug Discovery Platform, we will perform screens on these targets, involving fragment campaigns, virtual library docking, and high-throughput screens, to discover potent viral inhibitors. These inhibitors will be optimized using cycles of design, structure determination, and testing. In vitro and in vivo pharmacokinetics as well as activity in cellular and mouse models of infection will be carried out, followed by studies involving oral bioavailability, clearance, permeability, solubility, metabolic liabilities, toxicity and efficacy. The final goal of each Project is an Optimized Lead ready for clinical development at our industry partner: Roche.
Throughout, we will exploit an integrated suite of experimental and computational technologies provided by eight Cores. The Biochemistry Core will provide purified material for the Screening Core, while the structures of targets and compounds will be determined through the Cryo-EM, Cryo-ET and crystallography capabilities of the Structural Biology Core. State-of-the-art mass spectrometry in the Proteomics Core will provide mechanistic insight into drug-protein relationships. The Medicinal Chemistry Core will optimize potent on-target compounds and work closely with the In Vitro Virology Core and In Vivo Virology Core to measure and optimize antiviral activity. The Integrative Modeling Core will provide computational support to structure determination and inhibitor discovery throughout the QCRG Drug Discovery Platform. The Administrative Core will help to foster a collaborative environment and will manage the Mentored Project Awards and the Developmental Research Project program, which will bring in new investigators. The QCRG AViDD Program will discover and develop inhibitors targeting key viral proteins. Innovation comes from using cutting-edge techniques individually and in combination with each other as well as from the viral proteins and processes targeted (e.g., viral enzymes that act to suppress host immune response). Impact comes from the development of clinical candidates with potent in vivo activity and from the development of a readily shared platform of technologies and target strategies for also treating future pandemics.
The QCRG Pandemic Response Program will discover and develop inhibitors targeting key viral proteins. Innovation comes from using cutting-edge techniques individually and in combination with each other as well as from the viral proteins and processes targeted (e.g., viral enzymes that act to suppress host immune response). Impact comes from the development of clinical candidates with potent in vivo activity and from the advancement of a readily shared platform of technologies and target strategies for also treating future pandemics.