Researchers have developed a novel molecule that has shown promise in lab tests as a potential preventive against the variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Developed by a team at Shiv Nadar Institution of Eminence Delhi-NCR and Paris Cité University in France, the compounds are based on indole which are ubiquitous molecules found in some amino acids and natural alkaloids.
"The current molecules are designed to treat the acute and long-term symptoms of COVID-19," said Subhabrata Sen, Professor at Department of Chemistry, Shiv Nadar Institution of Eminence.
"They are first in class molecules displaying the original property of targeting not only one but several molecular targets involved in COVID-19," Sen, corresponding author of the study published in the European Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, told PTI.
The scientist noted that due to its multi-target properties, the compounds interfere with several stages of SARS-CoV-2 infection, including interacting with its cellular receptor, ACE2 and viral replication.
These target proteins are also crucial for other viruses similar to SARS-CoV-2 such as MERS, SARS that are dangerous for humans, he noted. "The therapeutic potential of our compounds for these viruses is currently unknown but would be of great interest to investigate," Sen said.
"Our compounds inhibit at least four COVID-19-related target proteins, however not with the same strength against all targets. Optimising and improving the efficacy of our molecules against all targets will be the next challenging step," he added. However, there are many challenges before taking these compounds from the lab to the market.
"We need to optimise them, validate them in pre-clinical animal studies followed by meeting with Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) to initiate clinical trials which will be time consuming," Sen said. "Such studies will largely accelerate the application of our compounds to diseases associated with other SARS-CoV-2-related viruses," he added.
The good news, Sen said, is that the molecule has undergone in vivo (in living cells) studies against virulent SARS CoV-2 in Paris and no toxic limitations were recorded. The researcher noted that there are only handful of novel molecules as SARS CoV-2 inhibitors around the world where the pathway of action has been elucidated and demonstrated.