Sygnature Discovery is supporting Professor Sachin Gupte, a pharmacologist at the New York Medical College (Valhalla, NY, USA), in his endeavours to find a drug treatment for the lung damage that can result from Covid-19 infection. Sygnature has synthesised two important compounds, which Prof Gupte will test in a model of coronavirus-induced lung injury. Sygnature’s work has been undertaken on a pro bono basis.
Lung damage is a common symptom for some of the most badly affected Covid-19 patients, especially those who end-up on ventilators. Prof Gupte has been working for some time on the drug discovery target G6PD, initially in pulmonary arterial hypertension. His thinking is that drugs acting at this target might also be beneficial in ameliorating Covid-19 lung injury, which lead to experiments to test his hypothesis.
However, he had no remaining supplies of the lead molecules. So, he contacted Sygnature’s Dr Allan Jordan, Director of Oncology Drug Discovery, with whom he had collaborated on an earlier research project, to determine if Dr Jordan and the Sygnature team could help him secure molecules to use in his screens. ‘We were delighted to be able to help out an old friend and collaborator,’ Dr Jordan says. ‘In these unprecedented times, it is important to move fast, and our experienced medicinal chemists were well placed to assist.’
The Sygnature team was able to spring into action immediately, as the company’s labs have remained fully operational throughout the UK’s pandemic lockdown. Scientists are working according to strict social distancing protocols and a number of additional measures have been implemented by the company to ensure the health and well-being of staff.
Senior Scientist, Dr Emma Blackham set about synthesising the molecules which are derivatives of the steroid androsterone. ‘When the starting materials arrived, the synthesis was relatively straightforward and I was able to make the molecules rapidly,’ she says. ‘I’m really proud that I was able to use my chemistry skills to help in this way.’
The molecules are now on their way to Prof Gupte’s lab in New York. Once they arrive, he will be able to start the experiments to assess their potential in treating Covid-19 lung problems.
‘Lung damage is a serious side-effect of Covid-19,’ Prof Gupte says. ‘It’s early days, but I am hopeful that drugs acting at G6PD might prove beneficial to these patients. I am extremely grateful to Sygnature Discovery for their assistance in providing the molecules, without which we could not have tested the idea in my lab.’