A community effort to discover small molecule SARS-CoV-2 inhibitors



The COVID-19 pandemic continues to pose a substantial threat to human lives and is likely to do so for years to come. Despite the availability of vaccines, searching for efficient small-molecule drugs that are widely available, including in low- and middle-income countries, is an ongoing challenge. In this work, we report the results of a community effort, the “Billion molecules against Covid-19 challenge”, to identify small-molecule inhibitors against SARS-CoV-2 or relevant human receptors. Participating teams used a wide variety of computational methods to screen a minimum of 1 billion virtual molecules against 6 protein targets. Overall, 31 teams participated, and they suggested a total of 639,024 potentially active molecules, which were subsequently ranked to find ‘consensus compounds’. The organizing team coordinated with various contract research organizations (CROs) and collaborating institutions to synthesize and test 878 compounds for activity against proteases (Nsp5, Nsp3, TMPRSS2), nucleocapsid N, RdRP (Nsp12 domain), and (alpha) spike protein S. Overall, 27 potential inhibitors were experimentally confirmed by binding-, cleavage-, and/or viral suppression assays and are presented here. All results are freely available and can be taken further downstream without IP restrictions. Overall, we show the effectiveness of computational techniques, community efforts, and communication across research fields (i.e., protein expression and crystallography, in silico modeling, synthesis and biological assays) to accelerate the early phases of drug discovery.


Supplementary material

Supporting Information: A community effort to discover small molecule SARS-CoV-2 inhibitors
This file includes further information and details about the methods used by the teams, the team comparison, and biological assays and testing procedures.

Supplementary weblinks

Github Repository
The repository includes relevant data, detailed information about the methods used by the different teams, and code for team comparison.