Skip to main content

UM School of Medicine and School of Pharmacy Researchers Identify Promising New Compounds to Potentially Treat Novel Coronaviruses

November 13, 2020 | Deborah Kotz

The compound UMB18 (multi-color) binds to the 3D structure of SKI protein complex shown in silver.

Research Could Accelerate Efforts to Develop New Anti-Viral Drugs to Fight Flu, Ebola, and Novel Coronaviruses like COVID-19

 Matthew B. Frieman, PhDResearchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) and School of Pharmacy (UMSOP) have discovered new drug compounds to potentially treat the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The compounds disrupt the functioning of a protein complex inside human cells that the researchers discovered is critical for the replication and survival of coronaviruses. This finding could lead to the development of new broad-spectrum antiviral drugs that target viruses such as influenza, Ebola and coronaviruses, according to a new study published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) journal.  

The protein complex, called SKI complex, is a group of human proteins that regulates various aspects of the normal functioning of a cell. In the new study, the researchers discovered that this complex also plays a crucial role in helping a virus replicate its genetic material, called RNA, within the cells it infects.

We determined that disrupting the SKI complex keeps the virus from copying itself, which essentially destroys it,” said study corresponding author Matthew Frieman, PhD, Associate Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at the UMSOM. “We also identified compounds that targeted the SKI complex, not only inhibiting coronaviruses but also influenza viruses and filoviruses, such as the one that causes Ebola.”

Stuart Weston, PhDHe and his colleagues from the School of Pharmacy’s Computer-Aided Drug Design Center and the Center for Biomolecular Therapeutics at the UMSOM used computer modeling to identify a binding site on the SKI complex and identified chemical compounds that could bind to this site. Subsequent experimental analysis showed these compounds to have antiviral activity against coronaviruses, influenza viruses, and filoviruses (such as Ebola). Researchers from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases also participated in this study.

The study was funded by Emergent BioSolutions, a biopharmaceutical company based in Gaithersburg, MD.

“These findings present an important first step in identifying potential new antivirals that could be used to treat a broad number of deadly infectious diseases,” said study lead author Stuart Weston, PhD, a research fellow at the UMSOM. Such drugs have the potential to treat infectious disease associated with future pandemics. Next steps include conducting animal studies to learn more about the safety and efficacy of these experimental compounds, which are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

In other research efforts funded by the federal government, Dr. Frieman and his team are rapidly testing hundreds of drugs, approved and marketed for other conditions, to see whether any can be repurposed to prevent or treat COVID-19.

E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA“As we face a potentially long, hard winter with COVID-19, our researchers continue their sustained efforts to advance innovations,” said E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA, Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs, UM Baltimore, and the John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor and Dean, University of Maryland School of Medicine. "Basic research remains a vital part of this effort to leave us prepared for the next global pandemic.”

About the University of Maryland School of Medicine

Now in its third century, the University of Maryland School of Medicine was chartered in 1807 as the first public medical school in the United States. It continues today as one of the fastest growing, top-tier biomedical research enterprises in the world -- with 45 academic departments, centers, institutes, and programs; and a faculty of more than 3,000 physicians, scientists, and allied health professionals, including members of the National Academy of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences, and a distinguished two-time winner of the Albert E. Lasker Award in Medical Research.  With an operating budget of more than $1.2 billion, the School of Medicine works closely in partnership with the University of Maryland Medical Center and Medical System to provide research-intensive, academic and clinically based care for nearly 2 million patients each year. The School of Medicine has more than $563 million in extramural funding, with most of its academic departments highly ranked among all medical schools in the nation in research funding. As one of the seven professional schools that make up the University of Maryland, Baltimore campus, the School of Medicine has a total population of nearly 9,000 faculty and staff, including 2,500 student trainees, residents, and fellows. The combined School of Medicine and Medical System (“University of Maryland Medicine”) has an annual budget of nearly $6 billion and an economic impact more than $15 billion on the state and local community. The School of Medicine, which ranks as the 8th highest among public medical schools in research productivity, is an innovator in translational medicine, with 600 active patents and 24 start-up companies. The School of Medicine works locally, nationally, and globally, with research and treatment facilities in 36 countries around the world. Visit medschool.umaryland.edu

Contact

Deborah Kotz
410-706-4255
dkotz@som.umaryland.edu

Related stories

    Thursday, November 19, 2020

    Promising Results Seen in Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine After Phase 1 Trial by University of Maryland School of Medicine

    Just six months after beginning a clinical development program that first enrolled here at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM), Pfizer and BioNTech report interim results showing an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine had no serious safety concerns and has been found to be 95 percent effective in protecting individuals from COVID-19.


    Tuesday, June 16, 2020

    UM School of Medicine Researchers Receive Federal Funding to Rapidly Test New Treatments for COVID-19

    Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) will be partnering on an agreement funded by the federal government’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to rapidly test hundreds of drugs, approved and marketed for other conditions, to see whether any can be repurposed to prevent or treat COVID-19. The compounds will be tested in studies using state-of-the-art technologies in the laboratory of coronavirus researcher Matthew Frieman, PhD., Associate Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. UMSOM will receive up to $3.6 million over the next year to fund this effort.


    Tuesday, June 02, 2020

    UM School of Medicine’s Institute of Human Virology Awarded Grants to Strengthen COVID-19 Response in Sub-Saharan Africa

    The Center for International Health, Education and Biosecurity (Ciheb) at the University of Maryland School of Medicine’s Institute of Human Virology was awarded $4 million from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to support coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) response activities in Botswana, Nigeria, Malawi, and Mozambique.


    Monday, June 01, 2020

    In A COVID-19 World, Another Threat to the Health of Our Children

    In the U.S., our children rarely fall ill to grave infections because they are protected by vaccines. Serious illnesses like measles, mumps, congenital rubella syndrome, chickenpox, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, rotavirus diarrhea, hepatitis (A and B), polio and bacterial meningitis are all preventable through routine childhood vaccinations.


    Thursday, May 28, 2020

    UM School of Medicine Researchers Develop Experimental Rapid COVID-19 Test Using Innovative Nanoparticle Technique

    Scientists from the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) developed an experimental diagnostic test for COVID-19 that can visually detect the presence of the virus in 10 minutes. It uses a simple assay containing plasmonic gold nanoparticles to detect a color change when the virus is present. The test does not require the use of any advanced laboratory techniques, such as those commonly used to amplify DNA, for analysis. The authors published their work last week in the American Chemical Society’s nanotechnology journal ACS Nano.


    Thursday, May 21, 2020

    UM School of Medicine Begins First Innovative Trial of Experimental Stem Cell Therapy to Reduce Deaths in Sickest COVID-19 Patients

    Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) have begun testing an experimental stem cell therapy developed by Mesoblast Limited to treat hospitalized COVID-19 patients with moderate to severe acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) who are on ventilators to help them breathe. The trial, which is being conducted at the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) and additional sites across the U.S, will involve a total of 300 patients randomized to receive either the drug remestemcel-L or a placebo in addition to the recommended standard of care to manage severe COVID-19 infections. The first patient in this national trial was treated at UMMC.


    Tuesday, May 05, 2020

    UM School of Medicine is First in U.S. to Test Unique RNA Vaccine Candidate for COVID-19

    In a significant development in the global effort to discover a safe and effective vaccine for COVID-19, researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) became the first in the U.S. to begin testing experimental COVID-19 vaccine candidates developed by Pfizer and BioNTech. The research, funded by Pfizer Inc., will study the safety, efficacy, and dosing of an experimental mRNA -based vaccine.


    Thursday, April 23, 2020

    UM School of Medicine Researchers Test Remdesivir as Potential Therapy for COVID-19 Patients

    Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) are testing the effectiveness of the investigational antiviral drug remdesivir in hospitalized adult patients with SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19). The randomized controlled clinical trial is evaluating the safety and effectiveness of the drug, and it is part of a national study funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).


    Friday, April 10, 2020

    University of Maryland School of Medicine Launches New Large Scale COVID-19 Testing Initiative

    University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) Dean E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA, announced today the launch of a large-scale COVID-19 Testing Initiative that will significantly expand testing capability over the coming weeks, enabled by new funding of $2.5 million from the State of Maryland.


    Friday, April 14, 2000

    Letter from Dean Reece to FPI Patients

    The COVID-19 pandemic has changed many aspects of our lives, from the way we shop and eat to how we connect with family and friends. While the virus itself has had strong and sometimes devastating effects on our community, the fear of its potential impact continues to influence responses and even cripple thoughts and actions.