Giorgio Cozza

Drug Repositioning against multiple viral targets as an innovative approach for the identification of new therapeutic solutions against Covid-19

Required budget: 80.000 euro

COVID-19 is a highly infectious disease associated with high mortality and declared as an international public health emergency by the World Health Organization. Unfortunately, there are currently no approved drugs available for COVID-19 and the ongoing clinical trials are producing contradictory results. For this reason, we have focused on four specific viral targets (3CL protease, RNA dependent RNA polymerase, glycoprotein spike and Mtransferase) in order to develop a computational strategy capable of repositioning drugs, currently in clinical use for other diseases, as possible anti COVID-19 agents. Preliminarily, 18 drug candidates with excellent potential were identified being molecules already shown to be active as antivirals, some of which efficient against the coronavirus family. The project involves the validation of these molecules through specific viral infection and replication assays and the optimization of the screening protocol for the identification of new drug candidates. Compared to the study of a single viral target, our strategy allows to face the problem from different points of view and therefore provides greater possibilities to identify a therapeutic proposal consisting of a single repositioned drug or a combination of drugs. The great advantage of our repositioning strategy, and final goal of the project, is to be able to quickly transfer the most promising molecules to clinical trials. Taking advantage of the preliminary data already obtained, we believe we will be able to conclude the validations of our candidates within one year from the start of the project, effectively

responding to the urgent request for new drugs against COVID-19. The budget is estimated at around € 80,000 including the recruitment of a post-doc to perform the validation tests and the material necessary for carrying out and completing the research project.