New screening hub to identify COVID-19 drugs funded in Scotland

LifeArc and the Medical Research Council have funded a new drug screening facility that will be established to accelerate COVID-19 drug discovery.

COVID-19 drug discovery

A new COVID-19 drug screening and resistance hub will be established in Scotland, based at the MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research (CVR).

The COVID-19 Drug-Screening and Resistance Hub (CRUSH) has received £2.5 million to set up a national resource which will initially be dedicated to supporting and accelerating vital COVID-19 antiviral innovation drug translation.

The facility is funded by medical research charity LifeArc, with additional funding from the UK Medical Research Council (MRC). CVR CRUSH will be delivered by the University of Glasgow in collaboration with partners LifeArc and the University of Dundee Drug Discovery Unit (DDU).

CVR CRUSH will help support the global scientific effort against COVID-19 by providing a fully integrated hub for pre-clinical drug screening and resistance assays for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, as well as providing the same services for other dangerous and deadly viruses in high containment facilities.

Work in the CVR facility will include studies to investigate promising drug candidates for COVID-19 treatment – and the mechanisms of how they work – alongside the integration of drug screening with the early identification of any possible drug and immune-resistant virus variants to accelerate the investigation process.

Professor Massimo Palmarini, Director of the CVR, said: “The establishment of CRUSH is an exciting development for the CVR and we are delighted to be partnering with LifeArc on this initiative. While CRUSH activities will initially focus on the COVID-19 pandemic, the CVR and the CRUSH facility are well positioned to rapidly respond to future viral outbreaks, delivering innovation to address public health crises caused by high consequence viruses. We look forward to working with academic and industry partners to develop CRUSH as a national facility.”

Professor Paul Wyatt, Head of the DDU at the University of Dundee, said: “The excellent facilities and expertise being set up within CRUSH are vital to enabling the UK to respond to COVID-19 and the inevitable future strains of viruses in a rapid and effective manner. CRUSH will allow expert drug discovery groups such as the DDU to engage quickly and effectively in the identification of possible drugs to tackle current and future threats.”