The international partnership to find a cure for Corona that was born on Twitter based on the principles of open science, is expected to reach the clinical trial phase during 2022
On the way to the Corona pill: COVID Moonshot – a non-profit partnership of researchers from around the world dedicated to finding a cure for the Corona virus based on the principles of open science – won a NIS 35 million grant from the wellcome philanthropic research fund Wellcome. The grant was transferred through the Corona Accelerator, the founder of the Bill and Melinda Gates Research Foundation, the Wellcome Foundation and MasterCard. Preliminary clinical trials are expected during 2022.
“In the face of inequality in access to Corona vaccines and the rapid spread of variants, the need for accessible drugs to treat patients is ever-pressing – especially in low- and middle-income countries,” said Dr. Annette von Delft of Oxford University. At the beginning of the epidemic, most of the research and funding efforts were invested in promoting the reuse of existing drugs and in the accelerated development of antibodies based on antibodies to the virus. Now, realizing that the epidemic will continue to pose a global challenge for the foreseeable future, we must urgently develop new drugs. Therefore, we are excited to receive this vital support from the Wellcome Foundation, and hope that it will open the door to further donations, ”added Dr. Alpha Lee, Chief Scientist of PostEra and a faculty member at Cambridge University.
The challenge of mass outsourcing
The Moonshot initiative was born during March 2020 on Twitter as a crowd sourcing challenge to find a cure for Corona. As countries closed their gates and announced closures, scientists, academics and students from all over the world joined hands and began a race against the clock to identify new molecules that could become coronavirus-accessible drugs down the road. Eventually, more than 150 scientists enlisted in the project – many of them research students who froze their projects for the benefit of the global joint effort. The goal they set for themselves is to find compounds that can be used to make simple and inexpensive anti-corona pills. Thanks to the unprecedented collaboration, rapid progress has been made – and by the end of 2021 preclinical trials in animals are expected to begin. The treatment is based on the neutralization of the main protease protein of the corona – a key enzyme in the life cycle of the virus, which is essential for its ability to replicate and thrive.
“If the efforts to detect drugs invested in the SARS epidemic in 2003 were funded until they were completed, we would have suitable drugs to fight the corona virus as soon as the epidemic broke out,” said Dr. Nir London of the Department of Structural and Chemical Biology at the Weizmann Institute. Plan for the future. Aside from addressing the current epidemic, which shows no signs of slowing down, our goal is to develop one or more new antiviral drugs that can work against the corona virus family even in the event of future outbreaks. In addition, our goal is to create an open research platform that will make it possible to accelerate the response time in the event of an outbreak of new epidemics. “
The project includes research groups from academic institutions and industry, including the Weizmann Institute of Science, Oxford University, Diamond Light Source – the UK’s national synchrotron, the American biotech company PostEra, the Sloan Kettering Memorial Cancer Center in New York and DNDi – the Swiss initiative to find drugs. As part of the principles of open science, all discoveries will be made available to the public, and research data are already available online to anyone who requests it.
“Efforts to discover new drugs through an open science platform are usually very slow – but we galloped on an express train on rails we traveled while traveling,” Professor Frank von Delft of Oxford University recently described the joint efforts in the scientific journal Nature. “It’s a way of working that none of us even understood was possible before.”
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