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Drug Development

The race to pick the best medicines to try against coronavirus

Medicinal chemist Derek Lowe and NCATS repurposing expert Matthew Hall weigh in on current efforts to repurpose existing drugs for COVID-19

by Lisa M. Jarvis
May 12, 2020

 

Credit: C&EN Webinars

Since the novel coronavirus began spreading like wildfire through Wuhan, China, researchers around the world have been scanning the pharmacopeia for drugs that could treat COVID-19, the respiratory disease it causes. Hundreds of studies are underway to understand whether any of these existing molecules actually work. So far, one of those has yielded a treatment: earlier this month, the US Food and Drug Administration awarded Gilead Sciences’ antiviral remdesivir, originally developed for Ebola, an Emergency Use Authorization in COVID-19. That stamp means the drug can be used by doctors and added to the US stockpile.

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C&EN hosted a webcast with two experts to explore how researchers decide which treatments to pursue—and to hash out which of the many drugs being tested is most likely to work against a coronavirus. Matthew Hall, acting director of biology and group leader, Early Translation Branch, at NIH’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, and medicinal chemist Derek Lowe, who has worked in the pharmaceutical industry for more than 30 years and writes Science Translational Medicine’s “In the Pipeline” blog, walked the audience through what we do—and don’t—know about medicines including remdesivir, chloroquine, hydroxychloroquine, favipiravir, and more.

Jarvis and Hall will continue the drug repurposing conversation during a Twitter chat on Monday, May 18, at noon–1 p.m. EDT. Send us your questions and join the conversation using the hashtag #DrugRepurposing.

CORRECTION

On May 12, 2020, this story was updated to correct Matthew Hall's title. He is acting director of biology and group leader, Early Translation Branch, at NIH’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, not NIH's National Center for Translating Medicine.

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