Automated discovery of noncovalent inhibitors of SARS-CoV-2 main protease by consensus Deep Docking of 40 billion small molecules†
Recent explosive growth of ‘make-on-demand’ chemical libraries brought unprecedented opportunities but also significant challenges to the field of computer-aided drug discovery. To address this expansion of the accessible chemical universe, molecular docking needs to accurately rank billions of chemical structures, calling for the development of automated hit-selecting protocols to minimize human intervention and error. Herein, we report the development of an artificial intelligence-driven virtual screening pipeline that utilizes Deep Docking with Autodock GPU, Glide SP, FRED, ICM and QuickVina2 programs to screen 40 billion molecules against SARS-CoV-2 main protease (Mpro). This campaign returned a significant number of experimentally confirmed inhibitors of Mpro enzyme, and also enabled to benchmark the performance of twenty-eight hit-selecting strategies of various degrees of stringency and automation. These findings provide new starting scaffolds for hit-to-lead optimization campaigns against Mpro and encourage the development of fully automated end-to-end drug discovery protocols integrating machine learning and human expertise.