What is it about?

We discover new molecules, called macrocyclic peptides, that can bind to a protein on the outside of coronaviruses (these are the red triangular blobs in the figure). These proteins are necessary for the virus to get into cells, and so by binding to them our molecules can prevent infection of cells in culture. Because we started from a very large collection of random molecules, we were able to find a surprising binding site in the protein that was not known to be able to be targeted in this way. This site is the same across many different related coronaviruses. As a result, our new molecule is able to inhibit infection by all of the 'variants of concern' that we tested (alpha, beta, delta, omicron), and also can inhibit SARS-CoV-1 and SARS-CoV-2 as well as another related virus.

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Why is it important?

This molecule has the potential to be developed into a new drug, which would make society better prepared for the next coronavirus outbreak. That is why the activity across different sub-types is important. Because our molecule bound to a new functional site, this can help to stimulate other research into ways to target coronaviruses even if our molecule does not make it into the clinic.

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: A broad-spectrum macrocyclic peptide inhibitor of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, June 2023, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2303292120.
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