Designing better antivirals that would prevent the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) from infecting human cells may now become possible thanks to a team of researchers producing the crystal structure of the main protease of the virus. Main virus protease is an enzyme that processes proteins critical to virus development. An antiviral that blocks this enzyme, as in the case of drugs used against HIV virus, effectively prevents the virus from replicating. Hence, such an inhibitor will be effective against the novel coronavirus. The results of the study were published in the journal Science.
A team led by Rolf Hilgenfeld from the University of Lubeck, Germany developed the crystal structure of main protease of the virus at 1.75 angstrom resolution. And by redesigning an existing inhibitor developed for other coronaviruses, the researchers have been able to develop a potent inhibitor that can effectively block the enzyme and neutralise the novel coronavirus. “Based on the structure, we developed the lead compound into a potent inhibitor of the SARS-CoV-2,” they write.