Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has killed more than 4 million humans globally, but there is no bona fide Food and Drug Administration-approved drug-like molecule to impede the COVID-19 pandemic. The sluggish pace of traditional therapeutic discovery is poorly suited to producing targeted treatments against rapidly evolving viruses. Here, we used an affinity-based screen of 4 billion DNA-encoded molecules en masse to identify a potent class of virus-specific inhibitors of the SARS-CoV-2 main protease (Mpro) without extensive and time-consuming medicinal chemistry. CDD-1714, the initial three-building-block screening hit (molecular weight [MW] = 542.5 g/mol), was a potent inhibitor (inhibition constant [K i] = 20 nM). CDD-1713, a smaller two-building-block analog (MW = 353.3 g/mol) of CDD-1714, is a reversible covalent inhibitor of Mpro (K i = 45 nM) that binds in the protease pocket, has specificity over human proteases, and shows in vitro efficacy in a SARS-CoV-2 infectivity model. Subsequently, key regions of CDD-1713 that were necessary for inhibitory activity were identified and a potent (K i = 37 nM), smaller (MW = 323.4 g/mol), and metabolically more stable analog (CDD-1976) was generated. Thus, screening of DNA-encoded chemical libraries can accelerate the discovery of efficacious drug-like inhibitors of emerging viral disease targets.
Keywords: antiviral; covalent inhibitors; drug discovery.
Copyright © 2021 the Author(s). Published by PNAS.