Most antivirals in use today target parts of an invading virus itself. Unfortunately, SARS-CoV-2—the virus that causes COVID-19—has proven hard to kill. But viruses rely on cellular mechanisms in human cells to help them spread, so it should be possible to change an aspect of a person’s body to prevent that and slow down the virus enough to allow the immune system to fight the invader off.
I am a quantitative biologist, and my lab built a map of how the coronavirus uses human cells. We used that map to find already existing drugs that could be repurposed to fight COVID-19 and have been working with an international group of researchers called the QBI Coronavirus Research Group to see if the drugs we identified showed any promise. Many have.
For years, researchers have suspected that kinases—biological control switches that viruses use to take over cells—could be targeted to fight infections. Over the last few months, we built a second, more detailed map looking specifically for the kinases that the coronavirus is hijacking.