CUHK-Shenzhen Research Groups Racing to Develop Medication for COVID-2019
Three research groups of the School of Life and Health Sciences (LHS), CUHK-Shenzhen, are actively working on the medication and treatment for the pneumonia caused by novel coronavirus that is endangering thousands of people’s lives.
Professor Dequan Ye, dean of LHS, whose research interests cover the area of lung infection, suggests that the treatment of the complications of pulmonary infection be included in the antiviral emergency project.
“Respiratory virus infections can cause acute respiratory distress syndrome and secondary bacterial infections. In severe cases, it can even lead to life-threatening pathological changes such as multiple organ failure, sepsis, and diffuse intravascular coagulation. These complications have been one of the major reasons for the death of patients infected with novel coronavirus. In this sense, the treatment of such complications as acute lung injuries can make a difference to the survivability." Said Professor Ye.
The research group of Professor Ye comprises several experts with solid research capacity, such as Professor Yang Du, Dr. Zheng Liu, as well as collaborators from Shenzhen Luohu Hospital Group, University of Science and Technology of China, and enterprises. With expertise and platform resources, the project aims to develop and eventually industrialize neutralizing antibodies for 2019-nCoV. The project will soon start with the R&D strategy and technical route confirmed.
Another research project, led by Professor Pan Wang, is focusing on the development of steroidal drugs against the coronavirus. With the participation of Professor Baoting Zhu, CUHK-Shenzhen Associate Vice President and experts from Tsinghua-Berkeley Shenzhen Institute, this research group is dedicated to providing highly optimized lead compounds for the development of drugs against 2019-nCoV infection. By targeting at important links in the infection and replication process of 2019-nCoV, the research project will design and screen small-molecule inhibitors (SMIs) for steroid, including active steroidal SMIs in natural products and Chinese herbal medicine, and identify their inhibitory effects.
Examples of common stteroids structure（Prof. Pan Wang's project）
Meanwhile, professor Hongli Hu is leading the third project of LHS to analyze the structure of the S protein of the novel coronavirus as well as its receptor ACE2 complex with the aid of three-dimensional cryo-EM reconstruction technology at the KOBILKA Cryo-Electron Microscopy Center. This project will help to understand the mechanism of transmission and pathogenicity of the virus. Molecular docking of key structural sites of the virus, and further drug screening will be performed in this project to discover potential drugs that inhibit the structure of the virus.
Prof. Hongli Hu (third from right) with her team
The School of Life and Health Sciences was stablished in 2018 upon the research foundations of the three Nobel Prize Research Institutes. Confronted with the outbreak of novel coronavirus, the above-mentioned research groups demonstrated unified response through the aims of their projects.
"Some of our research has made substantial progress on animal experiments. We will speed up the research and development, and complete the transition from animal experiment to human as soon as possible, so as to accelerate the development of new drugs that can effectively curb lung inflammation and injury", said Dean Ye, who is full of expectations and confidence in the future progress of his research.
Neutralizing antibody biologics（Nature，2016）
Prictures from Nature、Lancet、Zumla et al.