Therapeutic approaches to SARS-CoV-2 and other pathogenic coronaviruses
Coronaviruses can cause serious diseases in humans and animals. Over that last two decades, we have seen the emergence of three deadly coronaviruses, the most recent of which SARS-CoV-2 is still spreading rapidly. Antivirals developed for other viruses are presently being tested in clinical trials in China, but there is no indication that these drugs will work against SARS-CoV-2. Currently, public health measures and quarantine are the only means to limit spread of SARS-CoV-2. As such, antiviral therapeutics and vaccines are both desperately needed to mitigate the effects of SARS-CoV-2 and future coronavirus outbreaks. Here, we present a strategy for testing novel antiviral drug candidates and vaccines as well as molecular tools to understand SARS-CoV-2 biology. By focusing initially on drugs already approved for use in humans for other indications, our goal is to identify compounds with activity against SARS-CoV-2 that can be rapidly approved for use in the clinic. In addition, our expertise in immunology and vaccinology against coronaviruses positions us very well for developing novel vaccine candidates. Finally, we will create molecular tools including modified SARS-CoV-2 viruses. Some of these tools which will not require high level containment, will be made available to a wide group of researchers so that they can also screen for antiviral compounds and study virus biology without the need for specialized containment facilities.