COVID Innovation Fund Award: Developing Platforms to Test Antivirals Against SARS-CoV-2

Principal Investigators: Rushika Perera, Ph.D.; Brian Geiss, PH.D.; david paterson, Ph.d., Colorado State University

Medical Context

Approximately 90 antiviral drugs are currently approved for treatment of 9 human viral diseases: human immunodeficiency virus, hepatitis B and C, herpesvirus, influenza, human cytomegalovirus, varicella-zoster, respiratory syncytial virus, and human papillomavirus. These 90 drugs belong to 13 functional classes and represent a trove of FDA approved drugs that can potentially be re-purposed and rapidly driven into clinical trials for COVID-19. They must first be tested for efficacy, but testing antivirals against SAR-CoV-2 requires Biosafety level III containment facilities, which are not readily available throughout the US.

Research Proposal

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Perera and her colleagues have mobilized space and necessary personnel and procedures in the Regional Biocontainment Laboratories at Colorado State University (CSU) to include a Respiratory Virus wing and establish a SARS-CoV-2 antiviral testing  laboratory. This is currently the only antiviral testing laboratory in the State of Colorado and one of the first to be established in the US. Together with internal and external collaborators, the team will have the capacity and technical requirements to evaluate the mechanism of action of candidate compounds in cell types directly impacted by SARS-CoV-2 (e.g. primary lung cells). They will be able to investigate the efficacy of treatments for prophylactic, therapeutic, or post-infection use, and will collect data to inform clinical use. Most importantly, their assays and platforms will be useful to evaluate antiviral agents not only against SARS-CoV-2, but also against other viruses that may plague humans in the future.