A new virus, a young squad: The challenge accepted!

In the initial stages of the lockdown, everyone was anxious, panicked and feared what was going to happen next. But the pandemic could not stop the scientists across the world, and they continued with their scientific breakthroughs. Given that COVID-19 or SARS-CoV-2 is a new virus, everyone was keen to understand how it caused the infection so that a way could be found to stop it. And so, scientists continue to pour new information and datasets of potential SARS-CoV-2 inhibitors.

Locked up in their houses with limited or no access to the lab, a bunch of young researchers decided to come together (virtually!) and contribute to the scientific understanding of how COVID-19 infections may be addressed. To their surprise, there were thousands of publications, each claiming several COVID-19 inhibitors… Were these the same molecules? Or were they different? Did we know anything about the chemical space we were probing for SARS-CoV-2? Did we know what we wanted to design as potential inhibitors? All these questions baffled this group.

And then, the group decided to map and analyze the SARS-CoV-2 chemical space. Their first step was to create an online platform where researchers across the world could deposit the inhibitors that have been reported. In order to provide a head start, they themselves curated data from over 2000 publications, several databases, open challenges and other resources to create an Open Repository of SARS-CoV-2 inhibitors.

The next task was to check how different these molecules were from what we had already tested in other infections. This then led to structural comparisons of the SAVIOR molecules, as they like to call it, with several state-of-the-art databases like COCONUT (largest repository of natural products), PostEra (open challenge on identification of SARS-CoV-2 main protease inhibitors), pathogen box (activity reported in neglected diseases), Prestwick library (off-patent drugs), CAS antivirals, NCATS open data, ChEMBL, FDA approved drugs and so on. Based on several drug-like analyses, the team has now shortlisted a few candidates and have proposed them for further development.

SAVIOR is available as a community-driven resource, open for participation by anyone. We also have a Slack channel through which contributors become part of this vibrant network. The SAVIOR team welcomes you to join and become part of a voluntary team of students and researchers from several CSIR labs, IISc, IITs, DU, IBAB, etc.

The SAVIOR team is proud that even the worst of situations could not stop them from contributing to science and have in essence proved the famous saying, “Where there is a will, there is a way.”

Meet the team at: http://ab-openlab.csir.res.in/anshu/savior

(The manuscript is under communication)

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Dr Anshu Bhardwaj is Senior Scientist and Assistant Professor
CSIR-IMTECH, Chandigarh
Email: anshu@imtech.res.in