News

Anatomy of a molecule:
What makes remdesivir unique?

Experts weigh in on the chemistry of the potential SARS-nCoV-2 antiviral
Laurel Oldach
March 17, 2020

The World Health Organization in late January convened experts to discuss experimental therapeutics for patients with the emerging coronavirus with no name, no vaccine and no treatment. The panel reported that “among the different therapeutic options, remdesivir was considered the most promising candidate.”

Within weeks, a clinical trial of the compound was underway in China. Results are expected in April; in the meantime, the outbreak of SARS-nCoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, has become a global pandemic.

Remdesivir is a nucleoside analog, one of the oldest classes of antiviral drugs. It works by blocking the RNA polymerase that coronaviruses and related RNA viruses need to replicate their genomes and proliferate in the host body.

The molecule originally was synthesized as part of a screen for inhibitors of the hepatitis C virus RNA polymerase. Its inventors at Gilead Sciences decided to move forward with a different nucleoside analog compound to treat hepatitis C. But RNA-dependent RNA polymerases are conserved between many viruses. Experiments in vitro, in cell culture and in animal models have shown that remdesivir has broad-spectrum activity against RNA viruses, including filoviruses (like the one that causes Ebola) and coronaviruses.

Remdesivir resembles the RNA base adenosine, shown here as a monophosphate.

AMP.jpg

The compound and ATP have some important differences, but some features are very similar. ASBMB Today spoke to medicinal chemist Katherine Seley–Radtke at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and structural virologist Craig Cameron at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill about what makes the molecule interesting. Click on a feature marked in blue to read their remarks.

Enjoy reading ASBMB Today?

Become a member to receive the print edition monthly and the digital edition weekly.

Learn more
Laurel Oldach

Laurel Oldach is a science writer for the ASBMB.

Get the latest from ASBMB Today

Enter your email address, and we’ll send you a weekly email with recent articles, interviews and more.

Latest in Science

Science highlights or most popular articles

Study of Alzheimer’s marker prompts warning about serine supplements
News

Study of Alzheimer’s marker prompts warning about serine supplements

May 20, 2022

They have been advertised to improve memory and cognitive function.

Why is the 100-year-old BCG vaccine so broadly protective in newborns?
News

Why is the 100-year-old BCG vaccine so broadly protective in newborns?

May 19, 2022

Study finds changes in metabolite and lipid profiles, providing clues for designing future vaccines for newborns.

How genome organization influences cell fate
News

How genome organization influences cell fate

May 17, 2022

UC Riverside-led study identifies how blood stem cells maintain their fate.

Corals and sea anemones turn sunscreen into toxins
News

Corals and sea anemones turn sunscreen into toxins

May 14, 2022

Understanding how could help save coral reefs.

The body’s response to allergic asthma also helps protect against COVID-19
News

The body’s response to allergic asthma also helps protect against COVID-19

May 14, 2022

It all comes down to an immune system protein known as interleukin-13

Stem cell–derived model offers insights on gene activity and addiction
News

Stem cell–derived model offers insights on gene activity and addiction

May 13, 2022

“Our work here is the first experimental study to demonstrate gene desensitization in human neuronal cells, specifically in response to dopamine,” first author Ryan Tam said.