The BLAVATNIK CENTER for Drug Discovery is committed to COVID-19 diagnostics and drug discovery programs



March 31, 2020 — In light of the challenging situation, the BLAVATNIK CENTER for Drug Discovery (BCDD) has been focusing on the design and performance of several projects related to the COVID-19 pandemic. These collaboration projects include various aspects of diagnosis and treatment of SARS-Cov-2 viral infection using the BCDD unique interdisciplinary capabilities in biological assays, medicinal chemistry and computer-assisted drug design. The devoted team is working around the clock to supply synthesis products and logistic solutions in record time. Here are further details on the three major projects:

•  Serological tests – A collaboration with Prof. Ariel Munitz, Prof. Motti Gerlic from the Sackler faculty of Medicine at Tel Aviv University, and the Israeli Ministry of Defense, aiming to design a serological high throughput test for the identification of SARS-Cov-2 positive seroconversion. The Israel Defense forces will provide blood samples collected from soldiers to TAU. Inactivated samples will be screened at the BCDD using its’ high throughput robotic systems to detect the presence of anti-SARS-Cov-2 antibodies to determine if the soldier was exposed to the virus or not. Further on, these tests will be used for the examination of medical staff. It is a project of national importance that comes to test the readiness and competence of the Israel Defense Forces as a result of the Corona pandemic. By using the BCDD state-of-the-art robotic system thousands of samples can be tested daily and change our understanding regarding the COVID-19 pandemic in Israel.

•  Vaccine development – A collaboration with Prof. Ronit Satchi-Fainaro from the Faculty of Medicine at Tel Aviv University. Prof. Satchi-Fainaro is developing a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine based on her novel mannosylated nanovaccine platform that was published in Nature Nanotechnology a few months ago. The Medicinal Chemistry Unit at the BCDD is synthesizing multiple short peptides from SARS-CoV-2 protein sequences at a rapid manner using an automated peptide synthesizer. These peptides are later introduced to polymeric nanoparticles produced at Ronit’s lab, which are finally injected into mice to boost the immune system activation and antibodies production. Polymeric nanopvaccines that will show the expected activity will be further tested on models of the disease

•  Inhibiting viral entrance to human cells – A collaboration with Dr. Meital Gal-Tanamy and Dr. Moshe Dassau from the Azrieli Faculty of Medicine at Bar-Ilan University. In this project, we are aiming to identify novel viral entry inhibitors against the SARS-Cov-2 virus using two parallel approaches. The first approach is focusing on inhibiting the binding of the virus to its ACE2 cell receptor by using pseudoviruses-based assays for the measurement of inhibition of infection. In this project, we will screen FDA approved drugs and drug-like molecule libraries on the system designed at Bar-Ilan University. The second approach is dealing with inhibiting the fusion of the viral membrane to the human membrane. In this project, we will use a computational workflow used by the BCDD computational team in previous projects to in-silico screening large libraries of commercial compounds towards inhibition of protein-protein interaction and validate the computational results using biochemical and biophysical tools. Molecules that will show promising results will be further developed to increase their potency using medicinal chemistry tools.


BLAVATNIK CENTER for Drug Discovery | Tel Aviv University

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