A woman waits to be tested for coronavirus by medical staff in personal protective equipment, at a hospital in Abu Dhabi. Image Credit: REUTERS

Abu Dhabi: A new research project announced on Sunday will develop a COVID-19 antiviral drug in the UAE.

The project follows an agreement between Abu Dhabi-based social initiative, Sandooq Al Watan, and the University of Sharjah. Sandooq Al Watan’s Applied Research and Development Programme, Sward, has furnished the drug research grant to the university, in addition to another grant dedicated to developing technologies for the detection of COVID-19.

This follows the University of Sharjah winning grants for two research projects to combat the spread of coronavirus, COVID-19, including work that will focus on the development of a dual-inhibitor antiviral drug.

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A third grant has been provided to New York University Abu Dhabi for the development of COVID-19 detection technologies.

A post on social media by the Abu Dhabi Media Office specified that the drug development grant is meant for the design of a dual-inhibitor antiviral drug to treat SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) “by coupling two major privileged scaffolds, which will lead to blocking major enzymes required for viral infection”.

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“The new proposed product will provide a platform to overcome any possible drug resistance or evolved future viral outbreaks,” the post added. Meanwhile, any COVID-19 detection technology developed will aim to be rapid, simple, scalable and cost-effective.

The project, led by Dr. Sameh Soliman and co-investigators Dr. Ahmed Almehdi, Dr. Rania Hamdy and Dr. Mohamed Haider from the University of Sharjah, seeks to design a dual-inhibitor antiviral drug against COVID-19 by blocking major enzymes required for viral infection. The developed compounds will be formulated to combat the existence and transmission of the virus. The new proposed product will provide an excellent platform to overcome any possible drug resistance or evolved future viral outbreaks.

"As a national initiative supporting research projects for the post-oil era, the recent major disruptions caused by the novel COVID-19 outbreak have made it even more imperative that we support innovative and forward-thinking projects to support national efforts to curb the spread of the virus and ensure business continuity in the UAE," said Ahmed Fikri, Acting Director General of Sandoq Al Watan.