Drug repurposing offers the possibility of a huge untapped source of safe and effective therapies for both common and rare conditions. Owing to the benefits, this method has been key in the fight against SARS-CoV-2. It has been proposed that 75% of known drugs can be repurposed for various diseases.
The development of novel drugs takes many years of research, development, and safety testing. On average, the cost of a novel drug development process costs more than £800 million over the course of 10 to 15 years, with a success rate of 2.01%. COVID-19 vaccines, even with the joint effort of over 100 countries, also took over 20 months from the start of the pandemic before being administered to the first patient.
There are three main approaches to drug repurposing, namely computational analysis, biological experimental methods, and a mixed approach combining both methods. Computational analysis is an innovative, recent approach which can integrate a range of information, such as drug-target interaction, chemical structure, clinical trial reports and drug adverse event reports. Computer analysis of this data can rapidly increase the speed of treatment discovery.
How would you begin the process of drug repurposing in relation to SARS-CoV-2? Firstly, it is important to think about the cause of the disease. The pathogen which causes COVID-19 disease is the SARS-CoV-2 positive-sense, single-stranded RNA virus. Owing to this, existing drugs which target closely related viruses (SARS-CoV and bat coronavirus RaTG13) would be a great place to start. Carrying on from this, existing drugs which target any part of an RNA virus’s replication life cycle are also pertinent routes to investigate.
One example of the success of drug repurposing would be the drug Remdesivir, which is now licensed in the UK to treat hospitalised adult and adolescent patients suffering from COVID-19 complications. Remdesivir is an existing broad-spectrum anti-viral drug which works by inhibiting the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRp), a key enzyme in the replication of RNA viruses.
For more information, please visit this research article https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fphar.2021.704205/full#:~:text=Anti%2Dparasitic%20drugs%20such%20as,et%20al.%2C%202020)