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F1000Res. 2020 Feb 21;9:129. doi: 10.12688/f1000research.22457.1. eCollection 2020.

Prediction of the SARS-CoV-2 (2019-nCoV) 3C-like protease (3CL pro) structure: virtual screening reveals velpatasvir, ledipasvir, and other drug repurposing candidates.

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Department of Applied Biology & Chemical Technology, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hunghom, Hong Kong.
State Key Laboratory of Chemical Biology and Drug Discovery, Hunghom, Hong Kong.
Independent Researcher, La Costa, Ma On Shan, Hong Kong.


We prepared the three-dimensional model of the SARS-CoV-2 (aka 2019-nCoV) 3C-like protease (3CL pro) using the crystal structure of the highly similar (96% identity) ortholog from the SARS-CoV. All residues involved in the catalysis, substrate binding and dimerisation are 100% conserved. Comparison of the polyprotein PP1AB sequences showed 86% identity. The 3C-like cleavage sites on the coronaviral polyproteins are highly conserved. Based on the near-identical substrate specificities and high sequence identities, we are of the opinion that some of the previous progress of specific inhibitors development for the SARS-CoV enzyme can be conferred on its SARS-CoV-2 counterpart.  With the 3CL pro molecular model, we performed virtual screening for purchasable drugs and proposed 16 candidates for consideration. Among these, the antivirals ledipasvir or velpatasvir are particularly attractive as therapeutics to combat the new coronavirus with minimal side effects, commonly fatigue and headache.  The drugs Epclusa (velpatasvir/sofosbuvir) and Harvoni (ledipasvir/sofosbuvir) could be very effective owing to their dual inhibitory actions on two viral enzymes.


2019-nCoV; 3C-like protease; COVID-19; HCV; Hepatitis C virus; SARS; antiviral; coronavirus; drug repurpose; ledipasvir; molecular modelling; velpatasvir; virtual screening

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