COVID MOONSHOT SPRINT 11: The home stretch

Rev up your GPUs and help us in the final stretch of nominating a patent-free oral antiviral for preclinical studies!

The COVID Moonshot has been working incredibly hard since it received a $11M grant from the Wellcome Trust to accelerate development of a new patent-free oral antiviral on behalf of the World Health Organization Access to COVID Tools (ACT-A) Accelerator program.

Timeline illustrating the progress of the COVID Moonshot from initial fragment screen 7 Mar 2020 to ACT-A funding 1 Jul 2021.

Since Sprint 10, much of the work has focused on optimizing pharmacokinetics properties that required more time-consuming animal studies. We’ve made fantastic progress, and you can hear all about in this COVID Moonshot 2021 wrap-up webinar:

We need your help once again in Sprint 11 (Projects 13458-13459) as part of a final push to increase potency before nominating a compound from our spirocycle series as one of the preclinical candidates to advance toward the clinic. The more we can improve potency, the less frequently we will will need to dose during therapy.

This past week has been full of great news for COVID-19 antiviral research, with the FDA Emergency Use Authorization for Paxlovid (nirmatrelvir tablets and ritonavir tablets, co-packaged for oral use) from Pfizer. The SARS-CoV-2 antiviral nirmatrelvir targets the same SARS-CoV-2 main viral protease as the COVID Moonshot compounds, and Paxlovid’s stellar success in clinical trials suggests that antivirals from the Moonshot and other efforts targeting Mpro will be similarly effective in preventing death, avoiding severe disease, and possibly even breaking the chain of transmission that is driving the rapid spread of variants like Omicron. Paxlovid represents a triumph of scientific discovery and hard work from hundreds of Pfizer scientists, and will be an incredibly powerful tool in turning the tide of the COVID pandemic. Given the ever-present threat of drug resistance, the need to co-dose with the HIV medication ritonavir (which can cause drug-drug interactions), and the difficulties in making such a complex molecule as nirmatrelvir at scale to meet global demand, there is still significant need for additional oral antivirals free of these constraints, and especially antivirals like the Moonshot is targeting, aimed at ultra-low-cost manufacture and distribution to ensure global accessibility, especially for low- and middle-income countries. Remember, as the emergence of variants and the lack of global vaccine access has repeatedly demonstrated, nobody is safe until we’re all safe.

You can read more about why we are developing a patent-free COVID antiviral therapy in this piece from Knowable Magazine:

Screenshot of the first page of the article from Knowable Magazine