‘Like looking for a needle in a haystack’: the global hunt to find key molecule to block COVID-19

Artificial intelligence identifying compounds
18-May-2020 6:05 AM EDT, by University of South Australia

Newswise — A molecular biologist from the University of South Australia is working with a world leader in artificial intelligence-based drug discovery to help find a molecule that could prevent the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus strain causing COVID-19 from infecting human cells.

Dr Gokhan Cildir has been selected by San Francisco company Atomwise to collaborate on research to use artificial intelligence to discover compounds that could successfully fight SARS-CoV-2. 

From millions of molecules screened virtually, Atomwise has identified likely contenders and has sent those compounds to Dr Cildir to test at the Centre for Cancer Biology (CCB) in Adelaide. The goal is to develop inhibitors for the ‘spike’ protein used by SARS-CoV-2 to invade human cells.

“Although coronavirus uses many different proteins to replicate and invade cells, the spike protein is the major cell surface protein that it uses to bind to a host receptor — another protein that acts like a doorway into a human cell,” Dr Cildir says.

“I believe there is a very high chance we will get a vaccine in the next year, but our own approach is to find the compound which can actually block SARS-CoV-2 because it will be impossible to vaccinate everyone in the world, especially the most vulnerable.”

The team hopes over the next 6-12 months to identify compounds which could potentially be patented and tested in vitro and animal models before undertaking any clinical trials in humans.

Atomwise is leveraging its unique AI-based drug discovery model for several other projects in the fight against COVID-19. There are currently 15 efforts underway and the company anticipates that number will grow.

“Atomwise’s patented AI technology has been proven in hundreds of prospective projects to discover drug leads for a wide variety of diseases, and we’re very optimistic about the role we can play when it comes to COVID-19,” says Dr Stacie Calad-Thomson, vice president and head of Artificial Intelligence Molecular Screen (AIMS) Partnerships at Atomwise.

“We’re hopeful that the therapies discovered will not only target this pandemic, but potential future recurrences.”

Dr Cildir, who is funded by The Hospital Research Foundation, is a postdoctoral researcher based in CCB’s Allergy and Cancer Immunology Laboratory led by Dr Damon Tumes. He has been working at UniSA since late 2016 after completing his PhD at the National University of Singapore in the School of Medicine.

He has previously collaborated with Atomwise on other work, but this is his first virology project.

“It is like looking for a needle in a haystack but if we are successful it will be a world first, so we are very excited about the possibilities,” he says.




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Released: 10-Jul-2020 3:05 PM EDT
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University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston

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Released: 10-Jul-2020 12:50 PM EDT
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Newswise: Pandemic Inspires Framework for Enhanced Care in Nursing Homes
Released: 10-Jul-2020 12:25 PM EDT
Pandemic Inspires Framework for Enhanced Care in Nursing Homes
University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing

As of May 2020, nursing home residents account for a staggering one-third of the more than 80,000 deaths due to COVID-19 in the U.S. This pandemic has resulted in unprecedented threats—like reduced access to resources needed to contain and eliminate the spread of the virus—to achieving and sustaining care quality even in the best nursing homes. Active engagement of nursing home leaders in developing solutions responsive to the unprecedented threats to quality standards of care delivery is required.

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Released: 10-Jul-2020 12:15 PM EDT
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University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center physicians completed evaluation for the GE Healthcare Critical Care Suite, and the technology is now in daily clinical practice – flagging between seven to 15 collapsed lungs per day within the hospital. No one on the team could have predicted the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, but this technology and future research with GEHC may enhance the capability to improve care for COVID-19 patients in the ICU. Critical Care Suite is now assisting in COVID and non-COVID patient care as the AMX 240 travels to intensive care units within the hospital.

Released: 10-Jul-2020 11:50 AM EDT
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A baby girl in Texas – born prematurely to a mother with COVID-19 – is the strongest evidence to date that intrauterine (in the womb) transmission of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) can occur, reports The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal, the official journal of The European Society for Paediatric Infectious Diseases. The journal is published in the Lippincott portfolio by Wolters Kluwer.

Released: 10-Jul-2020 9:45 AM EDT
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Released: 10-Jul-2020 9:00 AM EDT
Team is first in Texas to investigate convalescent plasma for prevention of COVID-19 onset and progression
University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston

A research team is the first in Texas to investigate whether plasma from COVID-19 survivors can be used in outpatient settings to prevent the onset and progression of the virus in two new clinical trials at UTHealth.


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