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Development and optimization of a high-throughput screening assay for in vitro anti-SARS-CoV-2 activity: Evaluation of 5676 Phase 1 Passed Structures

Journal of Medical Virology
February 28, 2022

Although vaccines are currently used to control the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, treatment options are urgently needed for those who cannot be vaccinated and for future outbreaks involving new severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus virus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) strains or coronaviruses not covered by current vaccines. Thus far, few existing antivirals are known to be effective against SARS-CoV-2 and clinically successful against COVID-19. As part of an immediate response to the COVID-19 pandemic, a high-throughput, high content imaging–based SARS-CoV-2 infection assay was developed in VeroE6 African green monkey kidney epithelial cells expressing a stable enhanced green fluorescent protein (VeroE6-eGFP cells) and was used to screen a library of 5676 compounds that passed Phase 1 clinical trials. Eight drugs (nelfinavir, RG-12915, itraconazole, chloroquine, hydroxychloroquine, sematilide, remdesivir, and doxorubicin) were identified as inhibitors of in vitro anti–SARS-CoV-2 activity in VeroE6-eGFP and/or Caco-2 cell lines. However, apart from remdesivir, toxicity and pharmacokinetic data did not support further clinical development of these compounds for COVID-19 treatment.

Genedata Screener was used to analyze data from a high content imaging assay to identify inhibitors of SARS-CoV-2 activity.