UCD Covid-19 Response

The UCD Community is rising to the challenge posed by the global pandemic

Blocking infection and inflammation in Covid-19 with one molecular hit

Lead Researcher: Associate Professor Margaret McGeeUCD School of Biomolecular and Biomedical Science


Millions of people around the world have had severe illness or have died from Covid-19. In many cases, the severe symptoms of Covid-19 are caused by damage to the lungs and widespread inflammation. While vaccination is on the cards, we also need drugs that can stop the virus from infecting humans and we need ways to calm the inflammation that the virus causes if it does infect.
Science Foundation Ireland is funding research to find out whether agents that block the action of a molecule that the virus uses to get inside cells and that can trigger inflammation can offer a dual function of both stopping infection and calming inflammation. The findings will provide a foundation for potential new treatments to reduce and manage Covid-19.

What is the issue?

There is urgent unmet need for drugs to reduce the ability of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, to infect people and trigger dangerous inflammation.

What will the research project do?

We know that coronaviruses need specific molecules in the human body to get inside cells in the human body and to promote inflammation. Researchers at University College Dublin have developed a series of agents that block this molecule. In this project, they will assess the ability of those agents to block SARS-CoV-2 infection and inflammation in laboratory settings.

What will the impact be?

By assessing new drugs that block this virus-enabling molecule, the project could provide the groundwork for new treatments that block SARS-CoV-2 and anti-inflammatory agents in the management of Covid-19.


Dr Margaret McGee said: “Coronaviruses, such as SARS-CoV-1 and MERS-CoV, use components of human cells to improve their ability to replicate. New research suggests that the SARS-CoV-2, which causes Covid-19, has evolved similar mechanisms to enhance infectivity. We have developed drugs against a pro-inflammatory molecule that a number of viruses use for enhanced infectivity.

"Through this project we will test the ability of these drugs to block SARS-CoV-2-mediated infection and inflammation. This work could pave the way for new treatments for the prevention and management of Covid-19. Furthermore, it is likely that these drugs will act as broad-spectrum anti-virals, the development of which is important to prepare us for emerging viral threats.”


Project Team

Lead researcher: Dr Margaret McGee

Collaborator: Dr Virginie Gautier, UCD Centre for Experimental Pathogen Host Research