Coronavirus: Chinese scientists to test 30 therapeutic candidates

28 January 2020 (Last Updated February 13th, 2020 10:32)

Researchers in China have chosen to test 30 existing medicines, biologically active natural products and the country’s traditional medicines for potential therapeutic effects against the Wuhan coronavirus (2019-nCoV), according to the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).

Coronavirus: Chinese scientists to test 30 therapeutic candidates
China evaluates 30 drug candidates to combat new coronavirus. Credit: Adam Nieścioruk on Unsplash.

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Researchers in China have chosen to test 30 existing medicines, biologically active natural products and the country’s traditional medicines for potential therapeutic effects against the Wuhan coronavirus (2019-nCoV), according to the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).

The death toll due to the coronavirus infection has reached 106, while 4,515 people have been affected.

A team of researchers from CAS’ Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica and ShanghaiTech University are working to identify drugs for the SARS-like virus, reported Xinhua.

Coronavirus drug development in China

Led by Rao Zihe and Yang Haitao, researchers at ShanghaiTech University detailed a high-resolution crystal structure of the viral main proteinase (Mpro) of 2019-nCoV.

Mpro regulates the activities of virus replication complex and is considered a beneficial drug target.

Based on findings from this Mpro study, the joint team analysed marketed drugs and databases for compounds with high potency and those from medicinal plants. Researchers used virtual screenings and enzymology tests to select 30 potential therapeutic candidates.

In addition to 12 HIV medicines, including Saquinavir, Indinavir, Lopinavir, ritonavir and Carfilzomib, the selected candidates comprise two respiratory syncytial virus drugs, a schizophrenia medication and an immunosuppressant.

Candidates also include certain traditional Chinese medicines that may consist of components with efficacy against the Wuhan coronavirus, such as Polygonum cuspidatum.

The team claim that these drug candidates can be considered for clinical treatment of pneumonia in patients infected with the virus.

CAS adds that the candidates will be tested to offer guidance for clinical studies and treatments.

Coronavirus drug development internationally

Many companies and research organisations are in a race to develop preventives and treatments for the coronavirus infection. The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) is among the first to commence works for the development of a vaccine.

Inovio Pharmaceuticals and Moderna secured CEPI funding to develop vaccines, while Gilead Sciences is testing the potential use of its investigational Ebola drug to treat the coronavirus.

The CEPI also contacted the University of Queensland in Australia for the development of a vaccine.

Moreover, GeoVax Labs partnered with a vaccine company called BravoVax in Wuhan, China to co-develop a coronavirus vaccine candidate.

GeoVax will leverage its MVA-VLP vaccine platform to design and create the vaccine, while BravoVax will be responsible for further development.

BravoVax will provide testing and manufacturing support, as well as enable direct discussions with public health and regulatory authorities in China.