Tuesday, 04 February 2020 08:49

Study shows that hepatitis C drug EPCLUSA has the potential to inhibit coronaviruses

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If you've been reading the news you are probably worried about 2019-nCoV - the coronavirus outbreak that started in Wuhan in China. Coronaviruses are not new. Every year millions of people are infected with coronaviruses and this infection simply gives them common cold type symptoms from which they recover. The difference with 2019-nCoV is that, like the coronaviruses SARS and MERS that preceded it, this one:

  1. is more infectious, and
  2. kills people

Now before you panic and start walking the streets in a mask the data so far suggest we are not looking at something like the 1918 influenza pandemic.

Anyway, if we look at the notion of protection, what can we do? Standard hand hygiene, taking a few days off work if you're coughing, coughing into a handkerchief - all the sort of things your mother told you to do really do help. That said, we have 3+1 possible technologies to work with each of which have standard timelines and accelerated timelines.

  1. Antibodies - Antibodies are what your body produces in repsonse to infection or a vaccine and they eliminate (some) viruses
    1. All the drugs that end in -ab are antibodies
    2. Abbvie's blockbuster Humira (Adalimumab)  is an antibody based drug and is made via recombinant DNA technology. 
    3. We use a mixed bag of antibodies extracted from human blood to treat some immunological conditions 
      1. An extract of blood from patients in the recovery phase would be likely to be curative and use existing tech with harvest from patients
        1. This carries all the risks of blood products + infection with the coronavirus (irrelevant if you already have it) + infection with HIV/HepB/HepC etc
          1. On the upside it could be done really really fast
      2. Historically we used to use Antibody extracts from both humans and animals to treat illness
        1. For example, we gave snake venom to horses (in sub-lethal doses) to force them to produce antibodies which we then extracted to make the antivenom treatments for snakebite
        2. It follows the animal vector, if found, could be a source of antibodies for human use 
    4. It used to be that you could get an antibody-drug to market really fast (low single-digit years rather than 10-20), but that has recently slowed to mid to high single-digit
      1. https://archive.bio.org/articles/new-report-shows-monoclonal-antibody-development-times-are-lengthening 
    5. Anyway these are #2 on the speed to market
  2. Vaccines - vaccines generate antibodies
    1. The antibodies for HIV and Hep C are totally ineffective in the case of HIV and 25% effective in the case of Hep C
    2. It follows that you need a vaccine that not only generates antibodies, it needs to generate antibodies that actually work
    3. This is a dark art and the typical timeline is 12 years
    4. These are #3 on the speed to market
  3. Small molecule drugs
    1. All the HIV drugs and the new Hep C drugs are small-molecule drugs
    2. Making a small molecule that fits like a key in a lock involves a lot of trial and error
    3. Proving it is not toxic to humans starts with cell culture, small animals (mice and rats), then larger animals like dogs and pigs, then primates, then humans
      1. This is stepwise and sequential and really can't be speeded up all that much
    4. There are lots of other technical things like making the API at scale and making a formulation the gets into a person when taken by mouth (for preference)
    5. These are #4 on the speed to market with a typical timeline of 10-20 years
      1. Sofosbuvir was fast-tracked and still took 10+ years and was built of the back of nearly 20 years of HIV research
  4. The +1 is REPURPOSED small molecule drugs
    1. Viagra started life as a drug to treat angina but an interesting side effect was noticed and voila - forget about the chest pain!
    2. Zyban (Wellbutrin, Buproprion) started life as an antidepressant and got repurposed because the patients started smoking less...
    3. Which brings us to existing antivirals like Kaletra and Epclusa - these drugs have already proven to be safe in humans and all the manufacture and regulatory approvals have been gone through
    4. A re-purposed drug is #1 on the speed to market

So in the short term - respiratory infection precautions and repurposed drugs like Kaletra and Epclusa look like being the mainstay.

You can get generic Epclusa here or generic Kaletra at our sister site FixRx. I doubt you will need either, but there are treatment options out there.

For details about Kaletra and coronavirus please look here.

For details about Epclusa and coronavirus please look here.

Read 1412 times Last modified on Saturday, 31 October 2020 02:48

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