In the COVID-19 pandemic, scientists have done an incredible job in a short amount of time, from developing tests to creating new types of vaccines. Despite these victories, experts are still working on developing an effective antiviral drug to kill the SARS-CoV-2 virus. A cover story in Chemical & Engineering News, the American Chemical Society’s weekly news magazine, describes the challenges and advances in developing a drug that would help the world conquer COVID-19.
Developing a new antiviral drug is a tricky business. Viruses mutate and replicate quickly, and their structures differ significantly even within the same class, writes Senior Editor Laura Howes. Most antivirals have to target a specific viral protein to be effective, which means that each virus often needs its own drug to treat it. Another challenge is to prove that the drug works first in cells and animals, then in humans. And while diseases such as HIV, AIDS, and hepatitis C have fueled new advances in antiviral development, there is less market for other acute viral infections because of the cost and need. The current pandemic has created a sense of urgency in the development of new antivirals, but progress is still relatively slow compared to other developments such as testing and vaccines.
With vaccination efforts in full swing around the world, experts believe an oral antiviral agent is key to the complete eradication of COVID-19, writes senior correspondent Bethany Halford. This would allow doctors to treat patients early in the course of the infection, which would prevent hospitalizations and deaths. However, most antivirals are only effective for a short window of time after infection and they can take years to develop and market. Researchers have made some advances over the past year, such as Gilead Sciences’ intravenous remdesivir, but an oral version would make treatment for early infection more accessible and effective. Scientists are also working on broad spectrum antivirals that could treat many types of viruses, including coronaviruses as a whole and novel strains of flu that they hope will help mitigate future outbreaks.
The articles “To Conquer COVID-19, Create the Perfect Pill” and “Why Are Antivirals So Difficult to Develop?” are freely available here or here.
The American Chemical Society (ACS) is a not-for-profit organization founded by the US Congress. ACS’s mission is to advance the broader chemical company and its practitioners for the benefit of the earth and all of its people. The society is a world leader in promoting excellence in science education and provides access to chemistry information and research through its numerous research solutions, peer-reviewed journals, scientific conferences, eBooks, and weekly news from Chemical & Engineering News. ACS journals are among the most cited, trusted, and widely read in the scientific literature. However, ACS itself does not conduct chemical research. As a leader in scientific information solutions, the CAS division works with global innovators to accelerate breakthroughs by curating, connecting, and analyzing the world’s scientific knowledge. ACS ‘main offices are in Washington, DC and Columbus, Ohio.
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