COVID Moonshot initiative identifies novel antiviral compound

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The first-ever crowd-sourced small molecule discovery effort has been published in Science, describing the open-science discovery of a novel small molecule targeting SARS-CoV-2 main protease. The COVID Moonshot initiative started as a spontaneous virtual collaboration in March 2020. With the help of more than 200 scientists world-wide, novel compounds with excellent antiviral activity against the main protease of SARS-CoV-2 were identified. The lead candidate is now in pre-clinical evaluation in collaboration with Drugs for Neglected Disease initiative (DNDi).

The Zitzmann group at the Department for Biochemistry (pictured are Michelle Hill and Juli Brun) contributed to this collaborative effort of multiple departments of the University of Oxford; Diamond Light Source; PostEra; Weizmann Institute of Science; MedChemica Ltd; Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai; Enamine Ltd; Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and Thames Pharma Partners LCC by measuring more than one hundred COVID Moonshot compounds in SARS-CoV-2 cellular assays.

Dr von Delft said: 'This publication showcases the enormous value that crowd-sourcing can bring to drug discovery. The COVID Moonshot project has been unique in its collaborative approach and commitment to open science and demonstrates that collaboration can be a driver for innovation.' The Science paper has received large press coverage, including articles in MIT Technology Reviews and C&EN (links below).

The discovery platform collaboration that spontaneously formed as the COVID Moonshot now continues its work as the ASAP discovery, which stands for AI-driven Structure-enabled Antiviral Platform, aiming to discover and develop novel broad-spectrum small molecule inhibitors against coronaviruses, flaviviruses and enteroviruses for pandemic preparedness.

For more information on the project, visit


Other Moonshot articles:

How open-source drug discovery could help us in the next pandemic | MIT Technology Review

Covid Moonshot yields novel coronavirus antivirals ( (C&EN)

Moonshot Provides Blueprint for Future Pandemic Drugs | Mirage News

Press release by Diamond Light Source - First-ever crowd-sourced small molecule disco | EurekAlert!

UK's synchrotron celebrates ground-breaking science on World Science Day with two new examples of synchrotron science helping to solve 21st century challenges (

Israeli-American blueprint for future pandemic medications - The Jerusalem Post (

Open-science triumph: Crowdsourced initiative yields potent SARS-CoV-2 antivirals (

The COVID Moonshot Consortium's AI Breakthrough in Crowd-Sourced Small Molecule Discovery - Multiplatform AI

COVID Moonshot Consortium Announces Crowd-Sourced Small Molecule Discovery (


Nicole Zitzmann and Annette von Delft
30th November 2023