COVID-19 treatment might already exist in old drugs – we’re using pieces of the coronavirus itself to find them

There are 20,000 FDA approved drugs. One of them might fight COVID-19, if we can find it. Peter Dazeley/The Image Bank via Getty Images

(Nevan Krogan/ The Conversation) — Why don’t we have drugs to treat COVID-19 and how long will it take to develop them?

SARS-CoV-2 – the coronavirus that causes the disease COVID-19 – is completely new and attacks cells in a novel way. Every virus is different and so are the drugs used to treat them. That’s why there wasn’t a drug ready to tackle the new coronavirus that only emerged a few months ago.

As a systems biologist who studies how cells are affected by viruses during infections, I’m especially interested in the second question. Finding points of vulnerability and developing a drug to treat a disease typically takes years. But the new coronavirus isn’t giving the world that kind of time. With most of the world on lockdown and the looming threat of millions of deaths, researchers need to find an effective drug much faster.

This situation has presented my colleagues and me with the challenge and opportunity of a lifetime: to help solve this huge public health and economic crisis posed by the global pandemic of SARS-CoV-2. (…)

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