Nottingham researchers set to work on bacteria study to find first Covid-19 antiviral drug

Wednesday, 22 July 2020

Molecular microbiologists at the University of Nottingham are working with biotech firm Cyanetics and Public Health England (PHE) to discover a novel antiviral medication to effectively treat Covid-19.


In its first phase, the Innovate UK-funded project will rapidly screen strains of a harmless bacteria called Streptomyces, which is found in abundance in soil (and is even responsible for the pleasant earthy smell after it rains). Importantly, the microbe has the ability to produce natural compounds (called secondary metabolites) with potent therapeutic benefits.

Already used to produce many well-known antibiotics, Streptomyces exhibit not only antimicrobial but also valuable antiviral properties. This study aims to find a specific strain of Streptomyces that can effectively target SARS-CoV-2 - the novel coronavirus behind the current global pandemic.

To achieve this, scientists from Cyanetics will be using their laboratories in Stevenage to test over 100 Streptomyces species from a unique collection held by the Sustainable Processing Group (SPT) at the University of Nottingham.

Assistant Professor in White Biotechnology, Dr Samantha Bryan is custodian of the Streptomyces strains in question. She will lead a team of SPT researchers to support Cyanetics on the preliminary laboratory investigations in response to COVID-19.

“There is an urgent need to discover new and effective antivirals against SARS-CoV-2. Therefore, given the plethora of secondary metabolites that Streptomyces produce, they're an untapped resource for new antiviral medications. Large-scale screening, such as the one we are undertaking, increases the likelihood of identifying such antivirals.”
Dr Samantha Bryan, based in the Faculty of Engineering

In phase two of the six-month project, researchers will send a shortlist of some 40 viable compounds that may inhibit in vitro replication of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in cell culture to PHE scientists for further testing towards drug development.

Photograph of a representative agar plate demonstrating macroscopic colony phenotype of Streptomyces sp. The strains were grown on oatmeal agar plates for three days at 30 °C

Story credits

More information is available from Dr Samantha Bryan at or Daniel Read on or 01438 79104 or Emma Lowry, Media Relations Manager (Engineering) on

Emma Lowry - Media Relations Manager Engineering
Phone: 0115 846 7156
Location: University Park

Our academics can now be interviewed for broadcast via our Media Hub, which offers a Globelynx fixed camera and ISDN line facilities at University Park campus. For further information please contact a member of the Communications team on +44 (0)115 951 5798, email or see the Globelynx website for how to register for this service.

For up to the minute media alerts, follow us on Twitter

Notes to editors:

The University of Nottingham is a research-intensive university with a proud heritage, consistently ranked among the world's top 100. Studying at the University of Nottingham is a life-changing experience and we pride ourselves on unlocking the potential of our 44,000 students - Nottingham was named both Sports and International University of the Year in the 2019 Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide, was awarded gold in the TEF 2017 and features in the top 25 of all three major UK rankings. We have a pioneering spirit, expressed in the vision of our founder Sir Jesse Boot, which has seen us lead the way in establishing campuses in China and Malaysia - part of a globally connected network of education, research and industrial engagement. We are ranked eighth for research power in the UK according to REF 2014. We have six beacons of research excellence helping to transform lives and change the world; we are also a major employer, proud of our Athena SWAN silver award, and a key industry partner- locally and globally.

Media Relations - External Relations

The University of Nottingham
C Floor, Pope Building (Room C4)
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 5798