In early May, the FDA issued EUAs (Emergency Use Authorization) for the antiviral drug Remdesivir. The same was also done with chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, which are drugs used for treating malaria, last March, but the FDA withdrew the authorization shortly after reports show a lack of effectiveness in alleviating COVID symptoms.
Even if there are drugs that have been granted approval for use in treatment against COVID-19, they are still required to undergo the appropriate clinical trials in order to be guaranteed safe for their intended use. The duration of these trials can range from at least a few months to years. The Development of a vaccine takes an even longer time. Modern technology has definitely helped in speeding up some processes, but even so, the world must still comply with the basic cautionary measures such as physical distancing, contact tracing, quarantine, and of course, strengthening the immune system.
The search for a cure
The process of developing an entirely new chemical compound takes an even longer time. And with the rapidly-increasing number of COVID-19 cases, the world cannot afford to risk yet another second of delay in developing a cure for this disease. Thus, pharmaceutical companies have resorted to examine preexisting drugs in the hopes that it would only take slight modifications to make them viable candidates as a Coronavirus treatment.
There are three stages of viral infection where a drug can act on:
- Before cell penetration
- Viral cell replication within the host cell
- Infection to host cell
Antivirals with promising results
Supposedly intended for the Ebola virus, Remdesivir did not pass clinical trials for it back in 2014. However, human safety trials were successful. The drug was tested on a different strain of coronavirus, the MERS, and was found to prevent viral replication. On COVID-19 patients, the administration of the drug resulted in faster patient recovery. Gilead has announced commercial production of the drug and revealed its selling price to the public.
A nonprofit biotechnology company under Emory University initiated the development of this drug. Preliminary trials on animal subjects showed promising results in preventing viral replication of several strains of coronavirus, including SARS-CoV-2 or the COVID-19. Subsequently, Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics LP formed an alliance to begin clinical trials for the orally-administered drug.
ViralClear, under BioSig Technologies, showed antiviral effects as well as immuno-suppressing effects. It is currently under the Phase 2 trial. It will be given alongside remdesivir for patients with severe COVID.
These are synthetic or modified immune system proteins that are intended to be target-selective. The body produces natural antibodies that ward off foreign cell invaders. As for monoclonal antibodies, they function the same way but are modified in such a way that they only attack a particular type of cell.
Monoclonal antibodies are immune system proteins that are created in the lab. Antibodies are produced naturally by your body and help the immune system recognize germs that cause diseases, such as bacteria and viruses, and mark them for destruction. Like your body’s own antibodies, monoclonal antibodies recognize specific targets.
The drugmaker is currently working on 3 monoclonal antibodies against Covid-19. Its recent project, the receptor decoy is intended to work like a vaccine, enabling the body to establish immunity to the decoy, and it turns to the virus itself.
Abcellera Biotech company
Abcellera is working on human-derived antibodies obtained from recovered COVID patients and is said to be having fast progress. CEO Carl Hansen says that the antibody could be ready by the end of the year. The drug is now two weeks in the second phase trial. In this stage, the drug will be tested on patients with the disease for whom it is intended to.
The company has successfully begun Phase 3 clinical trials for its REGN-COV2 and has been granted a $450 million capital fund for its mass production.