Design and Development of NS5B Polymerase Non‐nucleoside Inhibitors for the Treatment of Hepatitis C Virus Infection
The hepatitis C virus (HCV) infects an estimated 130–170 million people worldwide and is associated with life‐threatening liver diseases. The recent introduction of the first two HCV direct‐acting antivirals (DAAs) as a complement to the interferon/ribavirin standard of care has provided patients with improved outcomes. Still, 25–30% of subjects infected with genotype 1 HCV do not respond adequately to treatment owing to the emergence of resistant virus and many suffer from severe side effects. A paradigm shift towards the development of interferon‐free combinations of DAAs with complementary modes of action is currently taking place. Virally encoded proteins and enzymes have become the target of HCV drug discovery efforts and several promising new agents are currently being evaluated in the clinic for treatment of chronic HCV infection. The NS5B RNA‐dependent RNA polymerase is responsible for replication of viral RNA and plays a pivotal role in the virus life cycle. NS5B is undoubtedly the most druggable HCV target and is susceptible to several classes of allosteric inhibitors that bind to four distinct sites on the enzyme. This chapter describes successful strategies that have led to the discovery of HCV NS5B antivirals. It is divided according to allosteric sites and describes how each of the known families of inhibitors was discovered, characterized and optimized to provide clinical candidates. When available, the strategies adopted by medicinal chemists to optimize initial leads and address challenges and liabilities encountered on the path to candidate selection are described, along with reported clinical outcomes.