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Jan
29

Zika Virus – getting some research moving on drug discovery

Following my last post / plea I have been a little preoccupied trying to find scientists that could : 1. contribute to an open Zika virus drug discovery effort 2. Help write a perspective that summarizes potential drug discovery efforts .

Fortunately several folks connected by email or twitter to offer ideas and assistance. I have a student that kindly signed up for drawing some molecules from Dengue papers. Also I am aware of labs with expertise in setting up assays and screening that could all help.

In addition I have started on the computational side to build a homology model of a protein for which there is a Dengue virus crystal structure. Fortunately there are tools like SwissModel that are pretty straightforward to use, though I have never used it before. I figure no time like the present. Following this I tried docking a few compounds of interest, notably quinacrine which is known to inhibit Dengue virus in vitro .

Now I have a library of compounds docking using Discovery Studio. So will see what  kinds of molecules score well and hopefully will then post the results on figshare.

In parallel some emails to program officers at the NIH have lead to a few more contacts to see if there are any funds available in a shorter time frame that the notification NIAID sent out previously. I have also tweeted to several journals to see if they could open up the Dengue literature and also make repositories for Zika information.

All of this makes me wonder are there others doing the same and how do we prevent duplication such as screening the same libraries of drugs. So how can we ensure sharing of reagents and resources? Its not like there is anything other than altruism motivating us at this point. The last thing we probably need is a competition to develop a drug for Zika, but what we do need however is some funding to cover materials and staff costs.

To date Zika research has probably received zero dollars from the NIH. That may have to change pretty quickly – but what will suffer in return? Will anyone else step up to the plate like BMGF, WELLCOME TRUST etc….a quick search of their sites returned zero hits for Zika. For many its still not on the radar. At what point will it be?

As scientists many of us see how we can help, we have the ideas, some resources and yet the pieces missing are what will grease the wheels (we have to drop everything to work on this) , and where will we put the information we create? If we discover a drug how can we quickly get it to the clinic, what mechanisms for clinical testing will be in place? So many questions but does anyone have answers.

We hope to quickly put out a perspective on what we think could be done on the drug discovery side..hopefully.

So many questions. BTW Like many we have day jobs to do. Whose day job is it to respond to threats like Zika and develop drugs for emerging pathogens, because I would like to meet these people and pass over the baton.

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