A group of researchers from the University of Alberta is preparing to launch a drug in clinical trials that could cure a deadly disease – coronavirus in cats. Moreover, they expect this drug would also be effective as a treatment for humans against SARS-CoV-2.
Joanne Lemieux is a professor of biochemistry in the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry. Lemieux said that only within two months, their results showed that the drug is very effective at viral replication inhibition in cells with SARS-CoV-2. Moreover, this drug is beneficial to work in humans. So they thought that this drug would be an effective antiviral treatment for COVID-19 patients.
This drug is a protease inhibitor that interferes with the virus’s ability to replicate, which results in infection. Proteases are involved in many body functions. They are the typical targets for drugs to treat everything from high blood pressure to cancer and HIV.
John Vederas is a chemist, and Michael James is a biochemist at the University of Alberta. They both first studied this drug following the outbreak of SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) in 2003. Then veterinary researchers developed the protease inhibitors further and showed it could cure a disease that is fatal in cats.
How it works against SARS-CoV-2
A group of four scientists – Lemieux, Vedaras, Howard Young, biochemistry professor and Lorne Tyrrell, the founding director of the Li Ka Shing Institute of Virology worked on testing the drug against the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Additionally, Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource Structural Molecular Biology program carried out some of the experiments.
The journal Nature Communications published this research paper after posting on BioRxIV, a research website for the first time. Lemieux said that there is a rule that all the results of COVID research need to be made public immediately.
How the antiviral drug works?
All four worked together; that is, Vederas synthesized the compounds. Then Tyrrel tested them against the coronavirus in test tubes and human cell lines. Moreover, Young and Lemieux’s groups then revealed the crystal structure of the drug, which binds with the protein.
She said that they determined the 3D shape of the protease bound with the drug in the active site, showing the mechanism of inhibition. Furthermore, this will allow them to develop even more effective drugs.
Effective against SARS-CoV-2
Lemieux said that she would continue to do the test modifications of the inhibitor. So, that she can make the antiviral drug (protease inhibitor) to an even better fit inside the virus.
Moreover, she added that the current form of the drug shows enough antiviral action against SARS-CoV-2. So, it can proceed immediately to clinical trials.
Lemieux said that if a drug wants to go into clinical trials, it must be confirmed in the laboratory findings and then tested in animal models. Moreover, this drug has already been used in the treatment of cats with coronavirus. Furthermore, it is very effective with little to no toxicity and passed those stages, and this allowed us to move forward.
Lemieux’s team and others collected a robust data of the drug. And so they were pursuing clinical trials for this drug as an antiviral for COVID-19.
Moreover, the researchers were in collaboration with Anivive Life Sciences, which is a veterinary medicine company. This company is only developing the drug for cats. Additionally, they also produce the quality and quantity of drug needed for human clinical trials. Lemieux added that this drug tested in Alberta, in combination with remdesivir, is another promising antiviral drug. Remdesivir – first treatment approved for conditional use in some countries, including the United States and Canada.