Based on a previously identified HCV replication (replicase) inhibitor 1, SAR efforts were conducted around the pyrimidine core to improve the potency and pharmacokinetic profile of the inhibitors. A benzothiazole moiety was found to be the optimal substituent at the pyrimidine 5-position. Due to potential reactivity concern, the 4-chloro residue was replaced by a methyl group with some loss in potency and enhanced rat in vivo profile. Extensive investigations at the C-2 position resulted in identification of compound 16 that demonstrated very good replicon potency, selectivity and rodent plasma/target organ concentration. Inhibitor 16 also demonstrated good plasma levels and oral bioavailability in dogs, while monkey exposure was rather low. Chemistry optimization towards a practical route to install the benzothiazole moiety resulted in an efficient direct C-H arylation protocol. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.