ATLANTA—Dr. Christopher Basler, professor and director of the Center for Microbial Pathogenesis in the Institute for Biomedical Sciences at Georgia State University, has received a $100,000 COVID-19 Fast Grant to study enzymes that are critical for the replication of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
Fast Grants are awards supported by a number of organizations in amounts ranging from $10,000 to $500,000. They are awarded to scientists at academic institutions who are working on a COVID-19-related biomedical project.
Coronaviruses, such as SARS-CoV-2, rely on the membranes of infected cells to enable their growth. Drugs that target cellular membranes and the lipids (fats) they are made of might be effective to stop SARS-CoV-2 growth. Basler is exploring several small molecule inhibitors that would block formation of membranes needed for SARS-CoV-2 infection. These include enzymes such as VPS34, long chain fatty acyl-coA synthetase and fatty acid synthase. Drugs that affect cell membranes and lipids are being pursued as treatments for other medical conditions, including cancer, diabetes and obesity. Early data from the Basler lab suggest such drugs might be effective to slow SARS-CoV-2.
“By validating that these enzymes are critical for efficient SARS-CoV-2 replication and that small molecule inhibitors of these host targets are effective antivirals, we would pave the way for repurposing of drugs and drug candidates that target these host enzymes for the treatment of COVID-19,” said Basler, a Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar in Microbial Pathogenesis.