Wichita State chemist partners with area universities on $3.7M COVID-19 research

A Wichita State University scientist is part of a team that has been awarded a five-year, $3.7 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to further research a treatment for COVID-19.

Dr. Bill Groutas, medicinal chemist at Wichita State University, is working with Dr. Kyeong-Ok “KC” Chang, a virologist at Kansas State University's College of Veterinary Medicine; Dr. Yunjeong Kim, a veterinary virologist at Kansas State; Dr. Stanley Perlman, professor of microbiology and immunology from the University of Iowa; and Dr. Scott Lovell, a structural biologist at the University of Kansas. Chang is the principal investigator.

On Aug. 30, the NIH announced the award for the project, which aims to complete development of a drug for preclinical studies, which will ultimately lead to a COVID-specific antiviral therapeutic treatment. It is led by principal investigator, Kyeong-Ok “KC” Chang, a virologist at Kansas State’s College of Veterinary Medicine. 

 “We have identified a series of compounds that are effective in an animal model of SARS-COV-2 infection, working in collaboration with research groups at KSU, KU and the University of Iowa,” Groutas said. “A drug candidate is being advanced along the development pipeline by CoCrystal Pharma as a COVID-19 parenteral therapeutic.”

The group has been working on antiviral drug development against both human and animal coronaviruses for more than a decade, focusing on protease inhibitors. Earlier this year, they published new findings on SARS-CoV-2 treatment options. Therapeutic treatments are different than vaccines in that they help people who have contracted the virus, whereas vaccines aim to prevent people from getting sick. 

“The new NIH grant will allow us to continue our work on the discovery and development of new drugs that can be deployed against SARS-CoV-2 infection, including drugs that are effective when administered orally,” Groutas said. 

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