GlycoNet-affiliated startup company searches for antiviral compounds to treat COVID-19

48Hour Discovery aims to develop clinically useful compounds by December 2020

By Katie Willis

48Hour Discovery, founded by GlycoNet Investigator Ratmir Derda, Associate professor in the Department of Chemistry, is adding their cutting-edge technology to the search for antiviral compounds to treat individuals infected with COVID-19. Image credit: 48Hour Discovery.

A University of Alberta spinoff company affiliated with GlycoNet is adding their cutting-edge technology to the search for antiviral compounds to treat individuals infected with COVID-19. 

48Hour Discovery was founded by GlycoNet Investigator Ratmir Derda, Associate professor in the Department of Chemistry, in 2017. Its revolutionary technology applies the power of big data to the world of molecular discovery by allowing scientists to sift through billions of molecules at once—rather than testing potential compounds individually. 

“Our proprietary technology offers a much faster discovery process, which will bring promising molecules to the clinic faster than ever before,” explained John Dwyer, vice president of research at 48Hour Discovery. “We are searching through our billion-scale peptide libraries for compounds that could be optimized as antivirals against COVID-19.” 

There are currently no effective therapies for the prevention of or treatment for COVID-19 infection. A member of the coronavirus family, COVID-19 shares many similarities with the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) virus. Recent research has completed the genome sequencing of the novel coronavirus, and scientists at 48Hour Discovery are using this information in conjunction with the company’s unique technology to screen and optimize potential drug candidates to treat those infected with COVID-19. 

“Our first priority is finishing the optimization and initial testing of promising candidates and then finding a partner to advance to pre-clinical and clinical evaluation,” explained Dwyer, who worked on a similar drug program during the SARS outbreak in 2003. “The goal is to have clinically attractive compounds ready for pre-clinical testing by the end of 2020.” 

The company is also working with external stakeholders and partners to provide access to their search platform to assist in rapid discovery services for other COVID-19-related projects, including test development and other treatment options. 48Hour Discovery is currently investing its own resources to support its COVID-19 research but is looking for partners to speed development.

“48Hour Discovery benefits greatly from its close association with the University of Alberta and the Faculty of Science,” said Derda. “The continuous support from the University and its infrastructure is critical to our COVID-19 related projects.”

This article is republished with permission from the Faculty of Science website at the University of Alberta.

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