The University of Oxford in the UK has announced the launch of a research partnership to analyse the repurposing of existing anti-viral drugs for the treatment of Covid-19.

Funded by the Medical Research Council and led by Queen’s University Belfast, this $2.16m (£1.6m) project will have specialists from Queen’s, the University of Liverpool and the University of Oxford. 

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As part of the project, the team will quickly detect the new combination of drugs that could effectively treat Covid-19 by using a data-guided approach.

Antiviral therapies are specifically utilised for treating viral infections by destroying or preventing the virus growth.

In the initial stage, this project will analyse 138 drugs with recognised antiviral activity against the SARS-CoV-2 virus. 

This will aid in evaluating and detecting combinations that boost the antiviral potential of such drugs. 

The project intends to present the most successful drug cocktails to national organisations, including the UK Antiviral Task Force and UK Covid-19 Therapeutics Advisory Panel (UK-CTAP), demonstrating the necessity to advance therapies to the clinic.

Furthermore, the chances of the drug cocktails to induce drug-resistant mutants will be analysed by the researchers to make sure the occurrence of drug-resistant variants is reduced.

Oxford University principal investigator professor Miles Carroll said: “We are excited to join this anti-viral consortium with the ultimate aim of providing new drug candidates for the Antiviral Task Force. 

“The fact that we are focusing on those drugs that are already licensed for human use, means those with significant anti-SARS-CoV-2 activity can be rapidly assessed in humans where they could have a significant impact on the disease burden in the community.”

Additionally, the researchers will employ a drug screening platform on another 4,000 drugs to find backup drug cocktails to equip a future pipeline of antiviral drugs against Covid-19.

In January 2019, the University of Oxford’s Big Data Institute (BDI) and Novartis collaborated to improve drug development using advanced analytics and artificial intelligence.