SARS-coronavirus-2 has become a worldwide public health emergency and the lack of vaccines and drugs to immediately address this outbreak is painfully clear. Even if the pandemic can be stopped, the virus may return in the same or a modified form. More than vaccines and therapeutic antibodies, antiviral drugs can target highly conserved viral functions and have the broad-spectrum activity that is critical to combat current and future outbreaks.

Since the 2003 SARS outbreak, as leading academic coronavirus researchers, we have collaborated to understand and inhibit coronavirus replication. We defined viral key functions, developed tools for inhibitor screening, and identified/engineered drug candidates.

In the SCORE project, supported by a leading pharmaceutical company, virologists, biochemists, structural biologists, and medicinal chemists will collaborate in a state-of-the-art drug discovery/design program that targets SARS-CoV-2. Our vast SARS-CoV-derived expertise and unique toolbox will be a major asset to achieve immediate impact.

We will target the virus using 5 independent approaches: (i) using (combinations of) FDA-approved drugs, (ii) targeting viral RNA synthesis, (iii) inhibiting coronavirus proteases, (iv) blocking virus entry, (v) discovery and development of new antivirals. This program will be supplemented with SARS-CoV-2 toolbox and animal model development. We aim to deliver proof-of-concept for selected compounds within 6-9 months, after which they will be offered for further use/development. This will contribute to short-term solutions for the on-going crisis and also pave the way for mid/long-term success in developing inhibitors that will be active against (evolving) SARS-CoV-2 strains, other SARS-like coronaviruses, and potentially (beta)coronaviruses at large.