2020-02-05| COVID-19

Antiviral Drug Developed By Emory University Shows Effectiveness against Coronaviruses

by Ruchi Jhonsa
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By Ruchi Jhonsa, Ph.D.

Emory University reports the discovery of an antiviral compound that can potentially treat the novel Coronavirus. Originally discovered by the Drug Innovation ventures (DRIVE) at Emory, as an anti-influenza drug, EIDD-2801 was found to inhibit the replication of multiple other RNA viruses, including respiratory syncytial virus, Chikungunya, Ebola, Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus, and Eastern equine encephalitis viruses.

What is EIDD-2801?
Nucleoside analogues like ribavirin and 5-fluorouracil are well known antiviral compounds that inhibit normal viral replication by mimicking natural nucleosides. While these compounds have been effective in treating some of the viral infections, they are ineffective in treating coronaviruses (CoV). This has been mainly attributed to the proofreading activity of the viral enzyme 3’-5’ exoribonuclease that repairs any mutation caused by nucleoside analogues. EIDD-2801, on the other hand, showed inhibitory activity against multiple viruses. This compound is an isopropylester prodrug of ribonucleoside analog (N4-hydroxycytidine, EIDD-1931) which inhibits viral replication mainly by evading or overcoming exonuclease activity in the virus and by introducing multiple G:A and C:U transition mutations in the viral genome. Similar anti multi viral activity was also observed for the active form, EIDD-1931. The scientists still don’t understand how this compound interacts with the CoV replication complex but determining the mechanism will shed light on critical aspects of CoV replication.

Who Developed the Drug?
In an effort to fight influenza, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) funds influenza research that enables researchers to move an investigational drug candidate into human testing. Emory Institute of Drug Development was awarded this funding by NIAID, to test the effectiveness of EIDD-2801 against influenza virus in humans. EIDD-2801 is currently licensed and commercially developed by Drug Innovation Ventures at Emory also known as DRIVE; a wholly- owned LLC of Emory University.

What is in the Future for EIDD-2801?
“Our studies in the Journal of Virology show potent activity of the EIDD-2801 against multiple coronaviruses including SARS and MERS” said Mark Denison, MD, the Stahlman Professor of Pediatrics and Director of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. He highlighted that the compound has strong genetic barrier to the development of viral resistance, and its oral bioavailability makes it a candidate for use during an outbreak.

George Painter, PhD, Director of the Emory Institute for Drug Development (EIDD) and CEO of DRIVE has big plans for the drug. “Based on the drug’s broad-spectrum activity against viruses including influenza, Ebola and SARS-CoV/MERS-CoV, we believe it will be an excellent candidate. We have been planning to enter human clinical tests of EIDD-2801 for the treatment of influenza, and recognized that it has potential activity against the current novel coronavirus” he said.

The novel Coronavirus infection is becoming a huge challenge to overcome and efforts around the globe are in full flow to prevent it from turning into a pandemic. This drug provides a hope for fighting such situations now and in the future.


2. Toots et al., 2019, Science Translational Medicine 11(515)
3. Agostini et al., 2019, J. Virol. 93(24)


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