An international consortium, led by Cambridge Medical Research Council (MRC) researchers, has developed an ‘open platform’ to advance and prioritise drug discovery and repurposing efforts for COVID-19.

This platform will provide information on the genetic variation of host proteins involved in SARS-CoV-2 infection, which causes COVID-19, based on analysis of genetic and proteomic data from the MRC’s Fenland Study.

In a statement, the MRC Epidemiology Unit of Cambridge University said that certain host proteins could become targets of drugs to block viral entry and inhibit viral proliferation as well as dampen the damaging host inflammatory responses caused by COVID-19.

In recent work, an international consortium led by the MRC Epidemiology Unit and Berlin Institute of Health, Charité University Medicine, Germany, identified common variations in the human genome linked to 179 proteins shown to be involved in SARS-CoV-2 infection or severe COVID-19.

The team also identified 220 genetic variants that corresponded with 97 of the 179 investigated host proteins and which explain up to 70% of the variance in SARS-CoV-2 response for these proteins, including 45 proteins for which such variants had not previously been identified, and 38 corresponding to proteins that are current drug targets.

“These findings may help to prioritise potential new compounds or existing drugs currently used for other purposes that target these proteins to help prevent, treat or reduce complications from SARS-CoV-2 infection,” said Professor Aroon Hingorani, UCL BHF Research Accelerator and UCLH NIHR Biomedical Research Centre.