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Drug repurposing for SARS-CoV-2 infection using human organoid culture technology

COVID-19 Research Area(s): Diagnostics, Genomics & Transmission Dynamics, Vaccines & Treatments

Project Summary
In the search for drugs effective against SARS-CoV-2 infection, there are speed and safety advantages to repurposing existing drugs. This project will test thousands of FDA-approved drugs and other clinical-stage compounds alone and in combination with each other to see how effective they are in combating SARS-CoV-2 infections. The most promising potential therapies will be evaluated on a state-of-the-art human airway cell platform developed with collaborator and local biotech leader STEMCELL Technologies, and tested for their ability to inhibit all stages of the virus lifecycle. This project could catalyze the discovery of desperately needed candidate therapeutics for COVID-19. It also leverages the virology, drug discovery, and protein analysis expertise of an interdisciplinary, international team to create a consortium well-positioned to rapidly identify lead therapeutic candidates for emerging pathogens.

Project Details
The main objective of Dr. Jean’s new cross-disciplinary team-based research is to contribute to the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic by identifying repurposable drug candidates for SARS-CoV-2 infection either tested alone or in combination using human organoid-based screening platforms with the goal of identifying synergistic drug combinations.

Since repositioning of FDA-approved drugs and clinical-stage compounds with existing preclinical and clinical data greatly expedites the process of drug discovery, Dr. Jean expects that this Genome BC grant will catalyze the discovery of desperately needed candidate therapeutics for COVID-19.

This  project will immediately (i) catalyze collaborative cutting-edge research in Canada needed to discover COVID-19 candidate therapeutics; (ii) provide a unique world-class interdisciplinary training program in anti-SARS-CoV-2 drug discovery at the interface of drug repurposing and human airway organoid-based screening platforms developed in collaboration with our Canadian industry collaborator (STEMCELL Technologies); and (iii) expose trainees to a cross-disciplinary research environment at state-of-the-art CFI-funded infrastructures, including one of the largest university-based CL3 facilities in the world, UBC FINDER. FINDER was established by Dr. Jean as the scientific director (2008-2016) with a CFI Award.