Potential COVID-19 Treatment Identified in UCLA-Led Lab Study; Kinase Inhibitor (Berzosertib) Already in Human Trials As Cancer Therapy Appears to Disrupt Coronavirus Replication

A collaboration among scientists from UCLA and other universities in California, Delaware, and Germany, as well as a German pharmaceutical company, has singled out a compound that shows promise for treating SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. In a series of experiments using different types of cells in lab dishes, the researchers found that berzosertib was effective in blocking the coronavirus’s ability to replicate and did not cause significant harm to cells. Berzosertib, which is licensed by Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, is being investigated in separate early- and mid-stage clinical trials, in combination with chemotherapy, as a possible treatment for small-cell lung cancer, ovarian cancer, and other types of tumors. The study, published online on March 17, 2021 in Cell Reports, was led by corresponding authors Robert Damoiseaux, PhD, a UCLA Professor of Molecular and Medical Pharmacology and of Bioengineering, and Vaithilingaraja Arumugaswami, PhD, a UCLA Associate Professor of Molecular and Medical Pharmacology and a member of the UCLA Broad Stem Cell Research Center. Both are members of the California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI) at UCLA. The Cell Reports article is titled “Antiviral Drug Screen Identifies DNA-Damage Response Inhibitor as Potent Blocker of SARS-CoV-2 Replication” (https://www.cell.com/cell-reports/fulltext/S2211-1247(21)00254-0). “Currently, there are no effective small-molecule drug therapies against COVID-19,” said Gustavo Garcia Jr., the study’s first author and a UCLA staff research associate. “This study identified a new potential therapy that could help the global fight against COVID-19 and support populations that have been disproportionately affected by this deadly disease.”
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