LUIS SCHANG: The issue is with the urgency of the situation, that people are starting to make tremendous efforts to try to do their best to curtail the epidemic. But people are literally being affected on a day-to-day life, beyond whether they are infected or not.
So our area of interest is therapeutics, which is basically cures, or medicines to be used on the sick people. In general, for any viral infection, the two approaches are try to prevent with vaccine or, if people get infected, try to treat it with antivirals. For example, we have good vaccines against polio virus, so the virus doesn't exist anymore. We don't have good vaccines against HIV, but we have drugs that control the disease. In either case, we can either prevent or, if we cannot prevent, we can treat, cure, or at least manage the disease.
The molecules that we work with, by definition, by design, they are active against a variety of unrelated viruses. What we are switching is we are stopping the work with all the other viruses and testing them exclusively in the coronavirus. We are growing two human coronaviruses which are endemic, are common in the human population-- they produce common cold-- that we are going to use to prescreen our molecules. And then the ones that are active are going to be tested against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in a biosafety level 3 facility that is in a separate building.
Gary Whittaker has been working with coronaviruses for a long time. He was originally working with animal coronaviruses. Many years ago, there was another coronavirus that came into the human population, which is called SARS. Later on, it was a second one, which is called MERS. So Gary started working with those viruses, as well. So we are complementing each other. He has the expertise in the coronavirus, we bring the expertise on a small molecule with antiviral effects.
So the question that we're asking is, can we target this virus with any of these molecules that are active against several other viruses. Most likely, some will in culture. And then it starts a very lengthy process to test whether they are actually potential antivirals or not. But yeah, everything takes time. There is no magic solution that is going to be available in one month.
We've received your request
You will be notified by email when the transcript and captions are available. The process may take up to 5 business days. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions about this request.
Luis Schang, professor of chemical virology at the Baker Institute for Animal Health, is one of many researchers at Cornell University working on an antiviral solution to the COVID-19 pandemic.