Cancer drug stops SARS-CoV-2 in the lab

Plitidepsin, a drug approved by the Australian Regulatory Agency for the treatment of multiple myeloma, has potent antiviral activity against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, according to researchers at the UCSF QBI Coronavirus Research Group (QCRG) and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai in New York.

In laboratory experiments reported in Science, plitidepsin, a compound originally discovered in a Mediterranean sea squirt, was 27.5 times more potent against SARS-CoV-2 than remdesivir, an existing treatment for COVID-19. In addition, in two animal models of COVID-19, plitidepsin showed a 100-fold reduction in viral replication in the lungs and demonstrated an ability to reduce lung inflammation.

“If you get a drug that targets a human protein, it would be incredibly hard for the virus to mutate away from being reliant on it,” QBI Director Nevan Krogan, PhD, told the San Francisco Chronicle. QBI is an Organized Research Unit in the School of Pharmacy.

The studies were conducted in close collaboration with PharmaMar, a Spanish pharmaceutical company that first isolated plitidepsin (trade name Aplidin).



School of Pharmacy, PharmD Degree Program

About the School: The UCSF School of Pharmacy aims to solve the most pressing health care problems and strives to ensure that each patient receives the safest, most effective treatments. Our discoveries seed the development of novel therapies, and our researchers consistently lead the nation in NIH funding. The School’s doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) degree program, with its unique emphasis on scientific thinking, prepares students to be critical thinkers and leaders in their field.