May 4, 2021  |  Nancy Tyrrell

CBC COVID-19 Seminar Series – April Recap

The Chicago Biomedical Consortium (CBC) and the CBC COVID-19 Response Award recipients are hosting a series of monthly seminars during which our invited speakers will discuss ongoing SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 biomedical research.

Savas Tay (UChicago) (Left) presents “Drug Repurposing for COVID-19 and Future Pandemics” and responds to questions from moderator Jeff Hubbell (UChicago) (Right).

On Thursday, April 22nd, Dr. Savas Tay, Associate Professor of Molecular Engineering in the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering at The University of Chicago served as the keynote speaker at the third seminar of the COVID-19 Seminar series. Dr. Tay is a systems biologist and bioengineer who works at the interface of biology, physics, and engineering. His overarching goal is to understand how biological systems work from an engineer’s perspective and use this knowledge to manipulate cells and gene pathways to help cure diseases.

Over 100 attendees, including many international participants, took part in the webinar to hear Dr. Tay speak on “Drug Repurposing for COVID-19 and Future Pandemics”. Dr. Tay described how there is an urgent need for antiviral agents that treat SARS-CoV-2 infection, as current drugs have been ineffective in clinical trials, and vaccines are not effective for already infected patients. The ideal drug would be effective, safe, and orally available for treatment of patients before they are admitted to the hospital. The shortest path to clinical drug use is repurposing of drugs that have an established safety profile in humans. After screening a library of 1,900 known drugs, they found nearly 50 candidate drugs that have broad antiviral activity against SARS-CoV-2 and the common cold virus OC43. One of these drugs is masitinib, which was previously developed to treat cancer. Masitinib strongly inhibits two distinct beta-coronaviruses and multiple picornaviruses that cause human disease. Masitinib is an orally available drug (unlike Remdesivir), which makes it a very strong candidate for use in patients who are not hospitalized, and acts by inhibiting the main protease of the virus,which makes it less likely to be affected by mutations on the spike protein. Dr. Tay spoke talk about their drug discovery pipeline and the technological developments in high throughput screening, and how these tools could be applied to future pandemics for rapid discovery of repurposed and effective drugs. Dr. Jeffrey Hubbell, Eugene Bell Professor in Tissue Engineering and Deputy Dean for Development at The University of Chicago, served as the event moderator.

We look forward to hosting the next seminar in the COVID-19 seminar series on Thurs, May 27, with Dr. Egon Ozer, Asst. Professor of Medicine, Infectious Diseases at Northwestern University. Dr. Ozer will be speaking about “SARS-CoV-2 Viral Genomics And Variation In The Chicago Region.”

To view a recording of Savas Tay’s presentation, click HERE.


▸ CBC COVID-19 Seminar Series
▸ CBC COVID-19 Response Award
▸ CBC Funded COVID-19 Response Awards