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.

Laurel Oldach

Laurel Oldach is a science writer for the ASBMB.

Join the ASBMB Today mailing list

Sign up to get updates on articles, interviews and events.

Latest in Science

Science highlights or most popular articles

Rapid home-based coronavirus tests are coming together in research labs
News

Rapid home-based coronavirus tests are coming together in research labs

May 25, 2020

The author and colleagues are working on analyzing spit using advanced CRISPR gene editing techniques.

Building a mouse squad against Covid-19
News

Building a mouse squad against Covid-19

May 24, 2020

It began with an email from Wuhan, a Maine laboratory and mouse sperm from Iowa. Now that lab is on the verge of supplying a much-needed animal for SARS-CoV-2 research.

Researchers unmask a pancreatic cancer culprit
News

Researchers unmask a pancreatic cancer culprit

May 23, 2020

Researchers have found that autophagic degradation of MHCI spurs the immune evasion of pancreatic cancer cells.

World Autoimmune Autoinflammatory Arthritis Day
Health Observance

World Autoimmune Autoinflammatory Arthritis Day

May 20, 2020

For this health observance, contributor Stephanie Nicole Johnson highlights research research on rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, psoriasis and Type 1 diabetes.

From the journals: JLR
Journal News

From the journals: JLR

May 19, 2020

Topics of recent Journal of Lipid Research papers include the biology of bacterial membranes, domain architecture of the plasma membrane and cholesterol levels in a corneal disease.

What's the best way to identify male hemp seedlings?
News

What's the best way to identify male hemp seedlings?

May 18, 2020

More accurate sex determination could increase yields and lower the price of CBD.