U of A spinoff company searches for antiviral compounds to treat COVID-19

48Hour Discovery aims to develop clinically useful compounds by end of this year.


A University of Alberta spinoff company is adding its cutting-edge technology to the search for antiviral compounds to treat people infected with COVID-19. 

Founded by U of A chemist Ratmir Derda in 2017, 48Hour Discovery’s technology applies the power of big data to the world of molecular discovery by allowing scientists to sift through billions of molecules at once, rather than testing potential compounds individually. 

“Our proprietary technology offers a much faster discovery process, which will bring promising molecules to the clinic faster than ever before,” explained John Dwyer, vice-president of research at 48Hour Discovery. “We are searching through our billion-scale peptide libraries for compounds that could be optimized as antivirals against COVID-19.” 

There are currently no effective therapies for preventing or treating COVID-19 infection

Recent research has completed the genome sequencing of the novel coronavirus, and scientists at 48Hour Discovery are using this information in conjunction with the company’s technology to screen and optimize potential drug candidates to treat those infected with COVID-19. 

“Our first priority is finishing the optimization and initial testing of promising candidates and then finding a partner to advance to pre-clinical and clinical evaluation,” explained Dwyer, who worked on a similar drug program during the SARS outbreak in 2003. 

“The goal is to have clinically attractive compounds ready for pre-clinical testing by the end of 2020.” 

The company is also working with external stakeholders and partners to provide access to its search platform to assist in rapid discovery services for other projects related to COVID-19, including test development and other treatment options. 

48Hour Discovery is currently investing its own resources to support its COVID-19 research but is looking for partners to speed development.

“48Hour Discovery benefits greatly from its close association with the University of Alberta and the Faculty of Science,” said Derda. “The continuous support from the university and its infrastructure is critical to our COVID-19-related projects.”