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A new database for mining drugs can help fresh pandemic onslaughts

A new database for mining drugs can help fresh pandemic onslaughts

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By Vanita Srivastava  Nov 23, 2022 6:53:41 AM IST (Published)

Researchers, including those from India, have developed a comprehensive database of drugs that could be repurposed to tackle mutated SARS-CoV-2 viruses, narrowing the search from thousands to a select few candidates.

Even as the fear of COVID has dimmed and restrictive measures have become almost non-existent, agencies and scientists are actively investigating ways to tackle any new onslaught of a pandemic, especially with varying mutations. In this context, researchers, including those from India, have developed a comprehensive database of drugs that could be repurposed to tackle mutated SARS-CoV-2 viruses, narrowing the search from thousands to a select few candidates.

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The database will be very effective in preparing for any new onslaught of the pandemic, especially with many variants evolving. The open digital platform will help identify safe and affordable potential drug combinations.
Globally as of 5.12 pm CET, November 21, there have been 634,522,052 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 6,599,100 deaths reported to WHO. As of November 15, 2022, a total of 12,943,741,540 vaccine doses have been administered worldwide.
A consortium of researchers led by the University of York’s Professor S.S. Vasan has published the methodology to down-select repurposed drugs for evaluation against COVID-19. Researchers from India’s Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS) in Pilani have also played a key role in this.
Their findings will help global researchers identify drug candidates already approved for other indications that could help combat the pandemic.
Considering the various mutation of the variants, there is an urgent and critical need to identify antiviral drugs that are safe, effective and affordable.
Experts have spelt out the benefits of drug repurposing as the risks are reduced, and the presence of safety data shortens the time for approval. Since there are fewer trials, the cost of development is also low.
Drug repurposing is one of the best options for developing drugs for mutations and emerging viruses. Repurposing starts with screening the approved drugs using various computational methods.
Although vaccines have proved effective against the virus and its variants, they cannot prevent their transmission. So, new drugs are being sought to keep pace with the continuously mutating disease. The available antiviral treatments – Remdesivir, Molnupiravir, and Nirmatrelvir/Ritonavir – have limited efficacy and use.
“Drug repurposing is one strategy to explore, but with nearly eight thousand compounds to choose from, it can seem like an endless 'treasure hunt' of possibilities,” Vasan said in a press release from the University of York, UK.
The database, called CoviRx, presents the properties of each drug, as well as data from Covid-19 experiments and clinical trials, any 'red flags', and similar drugs in use.  According to the release, the database is a free, multilingual platform for global researchers to help identify potential drug candidates to tackle diseases like COVID and help in drug repurposing efforts.
The new database cannot establish the exactly needed drug but the hunt for it becomes considerably easier. As many as 12 drugs have been tested and awaiting further investigation, and some 200 more candidates for the global research community to evaluate. The 12 selected drugs will be evaluated against SARS-CoV-2 and its variants in relevant in-vitro/ ex-vivo models,
The project received $1.7 million in funding from Australia’s Medical Research Future Fund and the national science agency CSIRO and is published in the peer-reviewed journal Data. There is also a huge potential for using this database to flesh out drugs for other diseases.
Researchers including those from India have developed a comprehensive database of drugs that could be repurposed to tackle mutated SARS-CoV-2 viruses, narrowing the search from thousands to a select few candidates.
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