Coronavirus: Using European supercomputing, EU-funded research project demonstrates promising results for potential treatment

EU-funded consortium Exscalate4CoV announced today that an already registered generic drug used to treat osteoporosis, Raloxifene, could be an effective treatment for COVID-19 positive patients with mild or asymptomatic infection. The consortium is using an EU-backed supercomputing platform, one of the world’s most powerful, to check the potential impact of known molecules against the genomic structure of coronavirus. This is one of many examples of how the EU’s research and innovation programme Horizon 2020 is bringing together the best of European researchers, pharmaceutical companies, technologies and research infrastructures to contribute to defeating the virus.

Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, said: ”Today, we need science more than ever. Since January we have mobilised all our efforts to support R&I actors in their respective fields to find solutions and stop the virus. This is why we have provided Exscalate4CoV with €3 million to fund their research, and I welcome the promising results they have achieved in helping get society back on track.”

Thierry Breton, European Commissioner for the Internal Market, said: “The Exscalate4Cov platform brings innovation to drug discovery in Europe and worldwide. These first results demonstrate the value of true pan-European cooperation by joining the best capacities Europe has to offer in the fields of biomedical science and high-performance computing.We will continue to mobilise all technologies available, including artificial intelligence, to fight the coronavirus.

Exscalate4CoV, using a unique combination of high performance computing power and AI with biological processing, brings together 18 partners and further 15 associated members. This includes supercomputing centres in Italy, Spain and Germany, large research centres, pharmaceutical companies and biological institutes from across Europe. The platform hasaround 100 Petaflops computing power, allowing research into the behaviors of molecules with the aim of identifying an effective treatment against coronavirus. The project’s chemical library is constantly growing thanks to agreements with newly associated pharmaceutical companies.

The consortium has already virtually tested 400 000 molecules using its supercomputers. 7 000 molecules were preselected and further tested “in vitro”; out of these, 100 were selected and 40 resulted as active against the virus. Among these, Raloxifene emerged as the most promising molecule. According to the project, Raloxifene could be effective in blocking the replication of the virus in cells, and could thus hold up the progression of the disease, in particular in cases of early detection or in asymptomatic cases. Researchers have indicated that its advantages include its high patient tolerability, safety and highly established toxicological profile.

Before advancing to clinical trials, the next step would be for the European Medicines Agency to evaluate the new potential use for Raloxifene. Once approved, the drug could quickly be made available in volumes and at low cost, thus helping to mitigate the effects of new waves of infection.

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