Improved and optimized drug repurposing for the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic

Sarel Cohen, Moshik Hershcovitch, Martin Taraz, Otto Kißig, Davis Issac*, Andrew Wood, Daniel Waddington, Peter Chin, Tobias Friedrich

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The active global SARS-CoV-2 pandemic caused more than 426 million cases and 5.8 million deaths worldwide. The development of completely new drugs for such a novel disease is a challenging, time intensive process. Despite researchers around the world working on this task, no effective treatments have been developed yet. This emphasizes the importance of drug repurposing, where treatments are found among existing drugs that are meant for different diseases. A common approach to this is based on knowledge graphs, that condense relationships between entities like drugs, diseases and genes. Graph neural networks (GNNs) can then be used for the task at hand by predicting links in such knowledge graphs. Expanding on state-of-the-art GNN research, Doshi et al. recently developed the DR-COVID model. We further extend their work using additional output interpretation strategies. The best aggregation strategy derives a top-100 ranking of 8,070 candidate drugs, 32 of which are currently being tested in COVID-19-related clinical trials. Moreover, we present an alternative application for the model, the generation of additional candidates based on a given pre-selection of drug candidates using collaborative filtering. In addition, we improved the implementation of the DR-COVID model by significantly shortening the inference and pre-processing time by exploiting data-parallelism. As drug repurposing is a task that requires high computation and memory resources, we further accelerate the post-processing phase using a new emerging hardware—we propose a new approach to leverage the use of high-capacity Non-Volatile Memory for aggregate drug ranking.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0266572
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number3 March
StatePublished - Mar 2023
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of 'Improved and optimized drug repurposing for the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this