Mauro Salvi

Protein kinase CK2 as a possible new therapeutic target for the pharmacological treatment of Covid-19 patients

Required budget: 30.000 euro

Our laboratory has a longstanding experience in the study of protein kinase CK2, which is considered a promising target to treat different forms of human cancer and other human diseases such as chronic inflammatory diseases. In the last years, it has been developed several small molecules able to bind and inhibit the function of protein kinase CK2. One of these compounds, CX-4945, also known as Similtasertib, has been enter into clinical trials for cancer treatment. Recent findings suggest that CK2 can have a key role also in SARS-CoV-2 infection. An article published in the June of 2020 by the prestigious journal Cell shows indeed that the treatment of human bronchial cells with CX4945 inhibit the entry of SARS-CoV-2 into the cells1. More importantly, an earlier study suggests that the inhibition of protein kinase CK2 could prevent the excessive immune response (cytokine storm) that can be a consequence of the viral infection and that is responsible for pneumonia and the admission to insensitive care. As SARS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2 exploit the same cellular receptor to enter the cells, it is conceivable that CK2 can be a role in both the infections. CK2 inhibition could have therefore a double effect in the treatment of Covid-19 patients.

Despite these great promises, the molecular mechanism, and the real impact of protein kinase CK2 in these processes are still unclear. If granted we will give our contribution to understand the role of CK2 in the SARS-Cov-2 infection and moreover if the inhibition of this protein could be sufficient to prevent the cytokine storm induced by the viral infection. This last point could be of great relevance to reduce the mortality risk and the number of admissions to intensive care of Covid-19 patients.

References

  1. Bouhaddou M. et al. 2020 Aug 6;182(3):685-712.e19

Chen I et al., J. Virol. 2010 Aug; 84(15): 7703–7712.