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 that reports through the UCSF School of Pharmacy.

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


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.