Prioritization of Potential Drugs Targeting the SARS-CoV-2 Main Protease

Since its outbreak in 2019, the acute respiratory syndrome caused by SARS-Cov-2 has become a severe global threat to human. The lack of effective drugs strongly limits the therapeutic treatment against this pandemic disease. Here we employed a computational approach to prioritize potential inhibitors that directly target the core enzyme of SARS-Cov-2, the main protease, which is responsible for processing the viral RNA-translated polyprotein into functional proteins for viral replication. Based on a large-scale screening of over 13, 000 drug-like molecules, we have identified the most potential drugs that may suffice drug repurposing for SARS-Cov-2. Importantly, the second top hit is Beclabuvir, a known replication inhibitor of hepatitis C virus (HCV), which is recently reported to inhibit SARS-Cov-2 as well. We also noted several neurotransmitter-related ligands among the top candidates, suggesting a novel molecular similarity between this respiratory syndrome and neural activities. Our approach not only provides a comprehensive list of prioritized drug candidates for SARS-Cov-2, but also reveals intriguing molecular patterns that are worth future explorations.