With artificial intelligence against COVID-19


Justus Liebig University Giessen on the trail of new drugs

by Caroline Link

(15.07.2021) In order to find a therapy against COVID-19 as quickly as possible, drugs that are already approved for the treatment of other diseases are being tested around the world. This so-called “drug repurposing” takes place against the background that viruses use certain structures and processes in the cell that also play a role in cancer, for example

For this purpose, drugs stored in drug banks in the laboratory are usually examined to see whether they inhibit SARS-CoV-2. But there is another way, as the working group of Prof. Dr. Friedemann Weber from the Institute of Virology at Justus Liebig University Giessen (JLU) in cooperation with scientists from Great Britain has now shown that the research team was able to identify two active ingredients as potential COVID-19 therapeutics using a computer-based high-throughput screen.

Using artificial intelligence, the scientists have collected all information about cellular proteins and signal pathways that the coronavirus uses for its replication and extracted a network of highly relevant SARS-CoV-2 interactions from it. A computer-aided comparison with a drug database and the literature revealed 40 active ingredients that are already in clinical testing, as well as 160 new candidates.

“Of the active ingredients that are known to be particularly well tolerated, two were ultimately confirmed in laboratory experiments to be highly effective against SARS-CoV-2,” reports Prof. Weber. “This interdisciplinary research results not only in new potential COVID-19 drugs, but also in a broadly applicable, data-driven in-silico process for the development of therapeutics.” (Idw)

The research team published the results in the journal “Science Advances”.


Namshik Han, Woochang Hwang, Konstantinos Tzelepis, Patrick Schmerer, Eliza Yankova, Méabh MacMahon, Winnie Lei, Nicholas M. Katritsis, Anika Liu, Ulrike Felgenhauer, Alison Schuldt, Rebecca Harris, Kathryn Chapman, Frank McCaughan, Friedemann Weber, Tony Kouzarides: Identification of SARS-CoV-2–induced pathways reveals drug repurposing strategies. Science Advances, 30 Jun 2021 : eabh3032, DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abh3032


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