Up until recently, COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) may have been a relatively new phenomena to the general public, but Wichita State University medical chemist Bill Groutas, two virologists from Kansas State University, and a physician/virologist from the University of Iowa have been working on a cure for coronaviruses for more than three years.
“It’s a big problem, with no vaccines available,” said Groutas. “The coronavirus could be around for a long time."
Groutas, along with K-State researchers Yungeong Kim and Kyeong-Ok Chang and Stanley Perlman at the University of Iowa, have been working to develop antiviral drugs to treat Middle East Respiratory Syndrome caused by MERS-CoV. That work extends to other human viruses that are similar to COVID-19.
He says there are currently no antiviral drugs available for coronaviruses, which include SARS-CoV, MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV2. The team has identified compounds that show efficacy against MERS-CoV in mice and are also potent inhibitors of a SARS-CoV2 enzyme that is essential for virus replication.
If their compound works, Groutas said, it can be used in combination with other compounds – Gilead remdesivir polymerase inhibitors – to reduce the impact of the coronavirus.
According to Groutas, some researchers in Israel believe there could be a vaccine for COVID-19 within three months, although in the U.S. it is estimated that it will take a year or more before a vaccine is realistic.