Dr. Syed Shahzad Ul Hassan (LUMS) and Dr. Mark Windisch (IP Korea)
The current pandemic of coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) has drastically affected healthcare all over the world. To date, no specific treatment is available to attenuate the infection.
Initial steps of viral cellular entry involve interactions of the viral spike protein with cellular receptor angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) followed by priming of the spike protein by a protease leading to membrane fusion and entry. The spike protein is highly glycosylated making the viral surface covered with an array of glycans. Moreover, SARS-CoV-2 is a positive sense RNA virus that requires RNA-templated RNA synthesis catalyzed by RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRp).
Building on the established area of research in our lab, we aim to identify new potential therapeutics against SARS-CoV-2 by inhibiting viral cellular entry through targeting viral surface-displayed glycans and receptor-binding sites on the spike protein, and viral replication through targeting viral RdRp. By using a combination of techniques including pseudovirus-based infectivity assay, biochemical and NMR based biophysical techniques and viral infection assay, we will screen traditional herbal medicines, extracts of algae and libraries of synthetic organic compounds to identify and validate SARS-CoV-2 inhibitors.