Discovery of novel small molecules for the treatment of human coronaviruses

University of Leeds

Elliott is investigating a new target in human coronaviruses that could be exploited to prevent further outbreaks of viral diseases such as COVID-19. Despite a sharp rise in the emergence of human coronaviruses over the last 20 years, there are currently no known anti-viral drugs that specifically target them. New anti-viral drugs with broad applications will become vital in a world increasingly dominated by viruses that evolve from human activity. The hope with the development of such a drug is that future pandemics can be avoided, and rates of infection and mortality can be reduced until a vaccine is developed.

The target area for Elliott’s approach is a coronavirus-specific protein which plays an important role in maintaining viral replication. If this pathway can be disrupted by a small molecule drug, then it is likely that further deterioration of the patient’s health can be prevented. It is also hoped that these drugs will maximise the effectiveness of other anti-viral agents used in treatment. Elliott will be using novel techniques in drug discovery at the cutting edge of LifeArc’s scientific capabilities, such as visualising proteins using virtual reality headsets to enhance the compound design process.

Elliott is a Medicinal Chemist who has worked at LifeArc since 2019, designing and synthesising novel small molecules for drug discovery. Elliott holds a master’s degree in chemistry from the University of York and has previously worked at GlaxoSmithKline on an industrial placement.

“Despite an increase in the emergence of human coronaviruses in the last few decades, we still lack anti-viral drugs to directly deal with them. In this project we are looking to design new compounds that inhibit coronaviruses, and can prevent them spreading through the body, reducing the infection and deaths.”