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The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has claimed over 7 million lives worldwide, providing a stark reminder of the importance of pandemic preparedness. Due to the lack of approved antiviral drugs effective against coronaviruses at the start of the pandemic, the world largely relied on repurposed efforts. Here, we summarise results from randomised controlled trials to date, as well as selected in vitro data of directly acting antivirals, host-targeting antivirals, and immunomodulatory drugs. Overall, repurposing efforts evaluating directly acting antivirals targeting other viral families were largely unsuccessful, whereas several immunomodulatory drugs led to clinical improvement in hospitalised patients with severe disease. In addition, accelerated drug discovery efforts during the pandemic progressed to multiple novel directly acting antivirals with clinical efficacy, including small molecule inhibitors and monoclonal antibodies. We argue that large-scale investment is required to prepare for future pandemics; both to develop an arsenal of broad-spectrum antivirals beyond coronaviruses and build worldwide clinical trial networks that can be rapidly utilised.

Original publication




Journal article


International Journal of Molecular Sciences



Publication Date





354 - 354


COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, coronavirus, therapeutics, clinical trial, drug discovery