Repurposing Navitoclax to block SARS-CoV-2 fusion and entry by targeting heptapeptide repeat sequence 1 in S2 protein

J Med Virol. 2023 Oct;95(10):e29145. doi: 10.1002/jmv.29145.


Along with the long pandemic of COVID-19 caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has come the dilemma of emerging viral variants of concern (VOC), particularly Omicron and its subvariants, able to deftly escape immune surveillance and the otherwise protective effect of current vaccines and antibody drugs. We previously identified a peptide-based pan-CoV fusion inhibitor, termed as EK1, able to bind the HR1 region in viral spike (S) protein S2 subunit. This effectively blocked formation of the six-helix bundle (6-HB) fusion core and, thus, showed efficacy against all human coronaviruses (HCoVs). EK1 is now in phase 3 clinical trials. However, the peptide drug generally lacks oral availability. Therefore, we herein performed a structure-based virtual screening of the libraries of biologically active molecules and identified nine candidate compounds. One is Navitoclax, an orally active anticancer drug by inhibition of Bcl-2. Like EK1 peptide, it could bind HR1 and block 6-HB formation, efficiently inhibiting fusion and infection of all SARS-CoV-2 variants tested, as well as SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV, with IC50 values ranging from 0.5 to 3.7 μM. These findings suggest that Navitoclax is a promising repurposed drug candidate for development as a safe and orally available broad-spectrum antiviral drug to combat the current SARS-CoV-2 and its variants, as well as other HCoVs.

Keywords: Navitoclax; SARS-CoV-2; broad-spectrum; human coronavirus; six-helix bundle; small-molecule inhibitor.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19*
  • Drug Repositioning
  • Humans
  • Peptides
  • SARS-CoV-2*
  • Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus / metabolism


  • navitoclax
  • Peptides
  • Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus
  • spike protein, SARS-CoV-2

Supplementary concepts

  • SARS-CoV-2 variants