28-Apr-2020 - Technische Universität München

In the hunt for new treatments against the coronavirus

Software for drug repurposing: Systems medicine and artificial intelligence for data analysis

Currently, the corona pandemic is dominating the entire social life in Germany and in many other parts of the world. We are working flat out in order to better help the more than one hundred thousand seriously ill people in hospitals. One promising approach to extending current treatment methods is to use existing and approved drugs to combat the virus.

In order to find out which existing drugs might be suitable for the treatment of Covid-19, numerous research groups from all over the world are working on systems medicine approaches. A research team from the Chair of Experimental Bioinformatics (ExBio) at the TUM School of Life Science of the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has now developed the first online data analysis platform for this purpose.

Systems Medicine and Artificial Intelligence for data analysis

The so-called Coronavirus Explorer (CoVex) integrates the virus-human interactome for SARS-CoV-2 and SARS-CoV. CoVex is designed to help provide a comprehensive understanding of the infection mechanisms and focuses not only on the virus and its direct interaction partners, but in particular involves the host-protein interaction network.

"The goal of CoVex is to make data more accessible and analyzable with the help of Artificial Intelligence, even for non-computer scientists such as virologists. The virus-host interactome of SARS-CoV-2 serves as the basis for our systems medicine approach," explains Prof. Jan Baumbach, head of the Department of Experimental Bioinformatics. 

Identification of drug repurposing candidates for treatment of Covid-19

"In particular, candidates for the reuse of known active substances are to be identified using CoVex. These do not target - as most of the existing drugs - directly the proteins of the virus, but against interaction partners in human cells. This makes it more difficult for the virus to escape treatment by mutating its own genome. This can be of great importance in possible future epidemic waves," said Baumbach.

"Our network-based approach can significantly accelerate the identification of potential drugs for the treatment of COVID-19," said Prof. Baumbach.

Data analysis platform publicly available

CoVex is therefore available to biological, medical and computer-based researchers as well as to the general public. Users can already view the latest available molecular data on SARS-CoV-2 and perform systems medicine analyses at https://exbio.wzw.tum.de/covex/.

However, Prof. Baumbach emphasizes that CoVex is a method for predicting possible future drugs for COVID-19, which have not yet undergone more intensive preclinical or clinical validation. "Under normal circumstances, we would not have gone public with CoVex at this point in time, but since the main functionality is implemented, we believe that this first version is already extremely useful for many researchers," said the chair holder.

In the coming weeks, CoVex will be continuously updated, for example by incorporating the latest experimental data for SARS-CoV-2 and implementing new functionalities. Furthermore, predicted candidates for new COVID-19 drugs will be pre-clinically tested and investigated.

Facts, background information, dossiers

  • SARS-CoV-2
  • artificial intelligence

More about TU München

  • News

    New approach identifies T cells in Covid-19 patients

    T cells play a decisive role in fighting the coronavirus and preventing infected individuals from becoming seriously ill. They identify and fight the virus directly within the infected cells. A team of researchers working in Munich have produced a precise profile of the T cells that respond ... more

    The virus trap

    To date, there are no effective antidotes against most virus infections. An interdisciplinary research team at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has now developed a new approach: they engulf and neutralize viruses with nano-capsules tailored from genetic material using the DNA origam ... more

    Versatile and reliable SARS-CoV-2 antibody assay

    During the continued progression of the Corona pandemic, rapid, inexpensive, and reliable tests will become increasingly important to determine whether people have the associated antibodies – either through infection or vaccination. Researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) ha ... more

  • q&more articles

    Biobased raw material flows of the future

    Anthropogenic climate change and the rising world population, in combination with increasing urbanization, poses global challenges to our societies that can only be solved by technological advancement. The direct biotechnological use of greenhouse gases, including residual biomass flows fro ... more

    Taste and aroma boost in the mouth

    The food trend towards healthy snacks is continuing. Snacks made from freeze-dried fruit meet consumer expectations of modern and high-quality food. However, freeze drying of whole fruits requires long drying times and substantially reduces sensorial quality, which is unappealing to consumers. more

    Diet, gut microbiota and host lipid metabolism

    Nature provides an enormous diversity of lipid molecules that originate from various pathways. Fatty acids are key modules for various lipids, including cell membrane lipids such as phospholipids or triacylglycerols, which are the major components of lipid droplets. Excess lipids or defects ... more

  • Authors

    Prof. Dr. Thomas Brück

    Thomas Brück, born in 1972, obtained his B.Sc. in chemistry, biochemistry and management science from Keele University, Stoke on Trent. Additionally, he holds an M.Sc. in molecular medicine from the same institution. In 2002, Thomas obtained his Ph.D. in Protein Biochemistry from Imperial C ... more

    Dr. Norbert Mehlmer

    Norbert Mehlmer, born in 1977, studied biology at the University of Salzburg and wrote his diploma thesis at the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics in Berlin. He earned his doctorate in genetics/microbiology at the Max F. Perutz Laboratories (MFPL) of the University of Vienna. Subs ... more

    Dr. Mahmoud Masri

    Mahmoud Masri accomplished his studies in Applied Chemistry at the University of Damascus and received his Master in 2010. He has been working as Quality Assurance Manager for five years. In 2019, he obtained his doctoral degree in biotechnology at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) w ... more

q&more – the networking platform for quality excellence in lab and process

The q&more concept is to increase the visibility of recent research and innovative solutions, and support the exchange of knowledge. In the broad spectrum of subjects covered, the focus is on achieving maximum quality in highly innovative sectors. As a modern knowledge platform, q&more offers market participants one-of-a-kind networking opportunities. Cutting-edge research is presented by authors of international repute. Attractively presented in a high-quality context, and published in German and English, the original articles introduce new concepts and highlight unconventional solution strategies.

> more about q&more

q&more is supported by: