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Infectious disease

Periodic Graphics

Periodic Graphics: A short history of antiviral drugs

Chemical educator and Compound Interest blogger Andy Brunning lists some notable compounds that target viruses.

by Andy Brunning, special to C&EN
January 30, 2022 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 100, Issue 4


To download a pdf of this article, visit

References used to create this graphic:

Dance, Amber. “The Challenges of Antiviral Treatments.” Knowable Magazine, Feb. 9, 2021.

De Clercq, Erik. “Antivirals: Past, Present and Future.” Biochem. Pharmacol. (2013). DOI: 10.1016/j.bcp.2012.12.011.

De Clercq, Erik. “Antivirals and Antiviral Strategies.” Nat. Rev. Microbiol. (2004). DOI: 10.1038/nrmicro975.

De Clercq, Erik, and Guangdi Li. “Approved Antiviral Drugs over the Past 50 Years.” Clin. Microbiol. Rev. (2016). DOI: 10.1128/CMR.00102-15.

Dolgin, Elie. “The Race for Antiviral Drugs to Beat COVID—and the Next Pandemic.” Nature, April 14, 2021.

Field, Hugh J., and Erik De Clercq. “Antiviral Drugs–a Short History of Their Discovery and Development.” Microbiology Today, May 1 2004.

Kausar, Shamaila, Fahad Said Khan, Muhammad Ishaq Mujeeb Ur Rehman, Muhammad Akram, Muhammad Riaz, Ghulam Rasool, Abdul Hamid Khan, Iqra Saleem, Saba Shamim, Arif Malik. “A Review: Mechanism of Action of Antiviral Drugs.” Int. J. Immunopathol. Pharmacol. (2021). DOI: 10.1177/20587384211002621


A collaboration between C&EN and Andy Brunning, author of the popular graphics blog Compound Interest

To see more of Brunning’s work, go to To see all of C&EN’s Periodic Graphics, visit


This graphic was updated on February 9, 2022, to correct the structure of saquinavir.
The graphic was updated on March 17, 2022, to correct the stereochemistry of the amide side chain of saquinavir. The central amide group should be connected by a wedge, not a dash.



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