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Supercomputer makes COVID-19 discovery

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Using one of the world’s most powerful supercomputers researchers in Germany have identified hepatitis C drugs that could help fight COVID-19. Working with the MOGON II supercomputer the team at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) were able to simulate the way 40,000 different substances faired in inhibiting the virus.

“This computer simulation method is known as molecular docking and it has been recognised and used for years. It is much faster and less expensive than lab experiments,” said Professor Thomas Efferth of the JGU Institute of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences, lead author of the study. “As far as we know, we were the first to have used molecular docking with SARS-CoV-2. And it is fantastic news that we have found a number of approved hepatitis C drugs as promising candidates for treatment.”

Over a two-month period billions of calculations were made using MOGON II and compounds from four hepatitis C drugs drugs showed an ability to bind to COVID-19 proteins and prevent infection.

Professor Efferth added: “Our research results now need to be checked in laboratory experiments and clinical studies.”

The JGU study follows a discovery made by Dr Kamlendra Singh, a University of Missouri researcher, using ‘computer-aided drug design’ which points to four antiviral drugs, including one originally developed to tackle Ebola, that merit further examination as possible inhibitors of the virus.

Dr Kamlendra Singh said: “These antiviral drugs, if they turn out to be effective, all have some limitations. But in the midst of a global pandemic, they are worth taking a deeper look at because based on our research, we have reason to believe that all of these drugs could potentially be effective in treating COVID-19.”

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Iain Robertson
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