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Scottish universities receive funding to find COVID-19 treatments

The Universities of Glasgow and Dundee have been awarded £225,000 to rapidly screen for potential COVID-19 treatments.

The project is funded by the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator, an initiative launched by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Wellcome, and Mastercard to speed up the response to the COVID-19 pandemic by funding the identification, assessment, development and scale up of treatments.

Working together, researchers at the MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research (CVR) in partnership with the University of Dundee Drug Discovery Unit (DDU) will use the funds to rapidly screen a large collection of existing approved medical treatments for other diseases to find any that would be effective against SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes COVID-19.

They will also conduct research into whether any combination of these molecules may have anti-SARS-CoV-2 potential when acting together against the virus.

As SARS-CoV-2 is an emerging virus, there are currently no known effective medicines for patients who require hospitalisation and treatment. However, the team of Scottish-based scientists believe it may be possible to rapidly repurpose existing therapeutics to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

Professor Paul Wyatt, Head of the DDU, said, “This is an exciting opportunity to partner the virology expertise in the CVR, with the drug discovery expertise in the DDU, to seek to find new treatments for this destructive disease. Even if it does not identify medicines that can be used immediately it could give us good start points for the development of new drugs for the future.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has already claimed more than 250,000 lives, which means there is an urgent need for effective treatments. While conventional treatment development takes time, scientists hope by exploring the repurposing of currently approved treatments they will be able to find therapies that can help sooner.

Professor Massimo Palmarini, Director of the CVR, said, “There is an urgent need to find treatments that will be effective against the SARS-CoV-2 virus, as millions of people around the world continue to be exposed to and fall ill with this new coronavirus.

“However, the usual mechanisms for developing treatments can be lengthy, and so projects like this, searching through treatments that already exist, could save time and help to save lives.”

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