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QBI Coronavirus Research Group races toward a cure

The COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the globe today is caused by a virus consisting of little more than a short strand of genetic instructions encased in a bubble of protein. But this virus packs a punch because of how it commandeers its human hosts to do its bidding. In fact, human proteins are responsible for helping the virus infect human cells, replicate, and ultimately spread between people.

Scientists at the UCSF Quantitative Biosciences Institute (QBI) have spent many years studying how all types of pathogens interact with human proteins, in the hope of finding better treatments for disease. QBI is an Organized Research Unit at UCSF that reports through the School of Pharmacy.

Just as the threat of COVID-19 was becoming clear back in January, QBI Director Nevan Krogan, PhD, a faculty member in the UCSF School of Medicine’s Department of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology, rallied over 100 researchers at UCSF and beyond to apply their expertise to the growing pandemic.

Dubbed the QBI Coronavirus Research Group, or QCRG, Krogan’s team set out to uncover the human proteins enabling the spread of the virus—and to identify existing drugs that target these human proteins, preventing the virus from hijacking them in the first place. In mere weeks, QCRG identified nearly 70 existing drugs that meet these criteria.

Member of the QBI Coronavirus Research Group
QBI

The 22 principal investigators who have joined forces as part of the QBI Coronavirus Research Group. 

The effort has received considerable national media coverage in The New York Times and on ABC News, and it was recently highlighted in a UCSF News online feature. Krogan described the work for The Conversation, and Jacqueline Fabius, the chief operating officer of QBI, also shared her account with family and friends.

Thanks to virtual meetings and an unprecedented depth of expertise across the team, QCRG has already published its first findings and made its data available freely to labs around the world. Research groups in New York and France are now testing some of the drug candidates identified by Krogan’s team in the laboratory against live coronavirus. The progress has impressed Krogan himself. “It’s remarkable, when people are open to collaboration, the speed at which you can get things done,” he told UCSF News.

More

Unveiling How COVID-19 Hijacks Our Cells to Help Rush New Drugs to Patients (UCSF News)

Hunting for a cure for COVID-19: an insider’s story

A SARS-CoV-2-Human Protein-Protein Interaction Map Reveals Drug Targets and Potential Drug-Repurposing (bioRxiv)

COVID-19 treatment might already exist in old drugs – we’re using pieces of the coronavirus itself to find them (The Conversation)

Scientists Identify 69 Drugs to Test Against the Coronavirus (The New York Times)

'Race against the clock': Scientists testing if existing drugs can fight novel coronavirus right now (ABC News)


About the School: The UCSF School of Pharmacy is a premier graduate-level academic organization dedicated to improving health through precise therapeutics. It succeeds through innovative research, by educating PharmD health professional and PhD science students, and by caring for the therapeutics needs of patients while exploring innovative new models of patient care. The School was founded in 1872 as the first pharmacy school in the American West. It is an integral part of UC San Francisco, a leading university dedicated to promoting health worldwide.