Scientists developed COVID-19 vaccines in record time. They will be invaluable in slowing and stopping the pandemic, but there will still be people who get sick – and they will still need drugs to treat them. Researchers are developing new antivirals to combat COVID-19 and repurposing older antivirals previously developed to fight other viruses. This virus has a number of targets in the body that researchers are trying to block. This Science magazine article brings together the different strategies scientists are pursuing.
Despite the vaccines, people still need drugs to treat those who get COVID-19.
Scientists around the world developed vaccines to prevent COVID-19 in record time. Even so, thousands of people are still going to contract and get sick from SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Many people don’t have access to a vaccine, and might not for some time to come. Some people will still refuse to get a vaccine. And although it has not happened yet, some vaccinated people might still go on to develop serious illness. Designing drugs to treat the disease is therefore still paramount.
Just like vaccine development, drug development has traditionally been a slow endeavor. It’s impossible to speed up some aspects of it, like animal studies and clinical trials. But identifying an appropriate biological target is one step that technology has dramatically accelerated. Researchers now use artificial intelligence to screen all known drug compounds for potential activity against specific targets and to design compounds that will interfere with biomolecules known to be important in disease etiology.
Drug developers are targeting both viral and cellular components in order to...
Robert F. Service is a news reporter for Science in Portland, Oregon, covering chemistry, materials science and energy stories.