Developing broad-spectrum antiviral drugs for pandemic preparedness

As highlighted recently by the COVID-19 pandemic, known and emerging RNA viruses continue to pose a major public health threat, due to a combination of societal, ecological and economic factors. In addition to vaccines, which take many months to develop and produce, our preparedness toolbox for future virus outbreaks should also include potent and safe antiviral drugs. Small-molecule compounds targeting essential functions in virus replication offer an important but underappreciated possibility for prophylactic and therapeutic intervention. Drugs with confirmed broad(er)-spectrum activity against a given virus genus or family, can be stockpiled to be available for immediate distribution in a crisis situation. However, such directly-acting antiviral drugs are currently available for only a few virus families.

The PANVIPREP consortium incorporates 14 European partners with complementary expertise in virology, structural biology, medicinal chemistry, pharmacology, and machine-learning approaches. Together, they aim to contribute to antiviral pandemic preparedness by piloting and progressing antiviral drug development, in particular through

  • developing and advancing broad(er)-spectrum antiviral compounds targeting five selected RNA virus families with high epidemic or pandemic potential;
  • delivering novel RNA virus knowledge and tools, including molecules that block novel molecular targets in the viral replication cycle;
  • implementing technological innovations to accelerate antiviral drug discovery and development.