More than 70 scientists took part in the inaugural Annual Metropolitan AntiViral Drug Accelerator (MAVDA) scientific review meeting convened at the Hackensack Meridian’s Center for Discovery and Innovation (CDI) in Nutley, NJ on the 27th of January. MAVDA is one among the nine Antiviral Drug Discovery (AViDD) Centers for Pathogens of Pandemic Concern program funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) and involves world-class institutions in the New Jersey-New York metropolitan area, and beyond. The meeting was co-led by drug discovery expert Dr. David Perlin at CDI, and world-renowned virologist and Nobel laureate Dr. Charles Rice.
The meeting participants include several senior world class virologists including Dr. David Ho (Columbia University), Dr. Stephen Goff (Columbia University) Dr. Yosef Sabo (Columbia University); drug discovery experts Dr. Jingyue Ju (Columbia University) and Dr. Tom Tuschl (Rockefeller University), Dr Alejandro Chavez (UCSD); structural biologists Dr. Lawrence Shapiro (Columbia University) and Dr. Dinshaw Patel (Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Cornell University); medicinal chemistry, pharmacology, and drug screening experts Dr. James Balkovec (Center for Discovery and Innovation, Hackensack Meridian Health), Dr. Joel Freundlich (Rutgers University), and Dr. Fraser Glickman (Rockefeller University). The meeting was also attended by scientific leads from innovative BioPharma including Julian Symons (ALIGOS), David Olsen (Merck) and representatives from Takeda (Tri-TDI).
The group of world-class experts is tackling one of the most major health crises of our time. The scientists came together to share ideas and developments in their drive to create new oral antiviral drugs to treat SARS-CoV-2 and its various variants, as well as other coronaviruses and other future viral threats.
“Translational science is extremely important to what we’re doing, and that’s why we’re here,” said David Perlin, Ph.D., Chief Scientific Officer, Executive Vice President of CDI and Co-Investigator on the MAVDA program.
MAVDA shared ideas and updates in their five promising projects to develop new drugs to inhibit, attack, and otherwise give the immune system an edge in fighting the germs. A strong emphasis is placed on developing inhibitors against 3CLpro, the main protease critical to the replication of SARS-CoV-2, as a proven and highly desirable antiviral target. In addition, other important targets include Nsp14 and Nsp16 MTase, ExoN, PLpro, Nsp13 helicase, RdRp, as well as novel targets.
MAVDA intends to accelerate the development of the drug candidates by allowing the five academic partners to partner directly with three proven antiviral drug developers, to translate the findings quickly into potential therapies. The goal is to discover, optimize and test innovative small molecule antiviral drugs which can be given orally and, in an outpatient setting, in the near future.
The Scientific Advisory Board members (SAB) consisting of Dr Emilio Emini (CEO, Bill & Melinda Gates Medical Research Institute), Dr Zhi Hong (Chairman and CEO, Brii Biosciences), Dr Joe Vacca (Vacca Consulting), Dr Arturo Casadevall (Professor, John Hopkins School of Medicine), Dr Susan Weiss (Professor, University of Pennsylvania), Dr Richard Kuhn (Professor, Purdue University) and Dr George Drusano (Professor, University of Florida) were also in attendance and offered advice that will accelerate the anti-viral research towards the development of several oral preclinical candidates for the treatment of SARS-CoV2 and the like, in an outpatient setting. They also discussed the funding of developmental and mentored projects, with the goal of creating an ideal environment within MAVDA for training the next generation of researchers for pandemic preparedness.