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Engineered Ribosyl-1-Kinase Enables Concise Synthesis of Molnupiravir, an Antiviral for COVID-19


Molnupiravir (MK-4482) is an investigational antiviral agent that is under development for the treatment of COVID-19. Given the potential high demand and urgency for this compound, it was critical to develop a short and sustainable synthesis from simple raw materials that would minimize the time needed to manufacture and supply molnupiravir. The route reported here is enabled through the invention of a novel biocatalytic cascade featuring an engineered ribosyl-1-kinase and uridine phosphorylase. These engineered enzymes were deployed with a pyruvate-oxidase-enabled phosphate recycling strategy. Compared to the initial route, this synthesis of molnupiravir is 70% shorter and approximately 7-fold higher yielding. Looking forward, the biocatalytic approach to molnupiravir outlined here is anticipated to have broad applications for streamlining the synthesis of nucleosides in general.

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