The severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the causative agent of COVID-19, has led to a pandemic, that continues to be a huge public health burden. Despite the availability of vaccines, there is still a need for small-molecule antiviral drugs. In an effort to identify novel and drug-like hit matter that can be used for subsequent hit-to-lead optimization campaigns, we conducted a high-throughput screening of a 160 K compound library against SARS-CoV-2, yielding a 1-heteroaryl-2-alkoxyphenyl analog as a promising hit. Antiviral profiling revealed this compound was active against various beta-coronaviruses and preliminary mode-of-action experiments demonstrated that it interfered with viral entry. A systematic structure-activity relationship (SAR) study demonstrated that a 3- or 4-pyridyl moiety on the oxadiazole moiety is optimal, whereas the oxadiazole can be replaced by various other heteroaromatic cycles. In addition, the alkoxy group tolerates some structural diversity.
Keywords: 1,2,4-oxadiazole; 1-heteroaryl-2-alkoxyphenyl analogs; COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2.