New drugs thanks to supercomputers
The current pandemic makes it clear how important it is to find suitable medicines quickly. In computer simulations, this can be done much faster than in the laboratory. Drug candidates against the corona virus have already been identified in this way.
Within a short time, a virus has turned the world upside down - and spurred science to peak performance. Researchers quickly managed to develop several effective vaccines against Covid-19. When it comes to drugs, however, they have been less successful. This is largely because drug development is a very lengthy process. On average, it takes more than 13 years from the idea to approval. In order to accelerate this process, new approaches and techniques are urgently needed.
In the case of infectious diseases, it is first necessary to decode how the pathogen is structured and how it multiplies in the human body. In the case of the corona virus, this has now been achieved. The researchers now aim to find active ingredients that either eliminate the virus directly or disrupt its replication tactics. This could work, for example, with molecules that dock to suitable points of attack on the virus surface. The latter are usually proteins, i.e. protein molecules that are used as tools by viruses and bacteria as well as by the body's own cells.
Several drugs are based on this principle: the active ingredient molecules they contain bind to certain proteins in order to either block them or stimulate them - depending on the effect to be achieved. The corona virus uses a so-called spike protein on its surface to dock with and penetrate the body's cells. A suitable molecule could disrupt this mechanism by attaching itself to the spike protein, rendering it non-functional.
But the search for such drug candidates often takes quite a long time…