Note: This post was co-written by Sabyasachi Dash, PhD
At the time of writing, more than 2.7 million cases of COVID-19 have been reported globally. Development of a vaccine against the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, require an investment of 12-18 months. Worse yet, the drug discovery pipeline including the critical steps of discovery of a therapeutic, pre-clinical testing, clinical testing, approval and commercialization can range in years (5-6+).
The process of identifying relevant therapeutics varies across laboratories. For instance, identification of therapeutic antibodies such as monoclonal (mAb) antibodies with desirable characteristics requires an amalgamation of high-end techniques and precision-based high-throughput platforms for testing and validation.
We’re not sharing this information to scare, but instead to inform on the challenges the healthcare industry is facing. With that in mind, below we report on 21 innovative efforts from leading and emerging players in the biotech industry to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
1. Abbvie – Abbvie is working on a small molecule combination therapy originally used as an anti-retroviral against HIV. The combination involves Lopinavir/Ritonavir and is currently in stage III. It works by inhibiting the function of viral protease enzymes. Read more here.
3. Ascletis – Ascletis is working on Danoprevir + Ritonavir, a stage I small molecule drug representing another class of viral protease inhibitors classically used against Hepatitis C virus. Read more here.
4. Sanofi – Sanofi is working on Plaquenil (Hydroxychloroquine), an immunosuppressive small molecule currently in preclinical stages. The drug works by increasing lysosomal pH in immune cells, inhibiting Toll like receptor, reducing inflammation, and inducing interferon production. Read more here. In addition, Sanofi is working on a DNA-based nucleic acid therapeutic that leverages recombinant DNA technology. Read more here.
6. Hoth Therapeutics & Voltron Therapeutics – Hoth Therapeutics is teaming with Voltron on a self-assembling vaccine. Currently in preclinical stages, it uses a combination of chemical adjuvants which activate immune response while targeting viral factors (proteins and nucleic acids). Read more here.
14. Sanofi & Regeneron – Sanofi and Regeneron make our list again, here teaming up on a mAb therapeutic, Kevzara. Currently in stage II/III, the technology works by leveraging mAb inhibiting cytokine (IL6) in host cells. Read more here.
16. SOM Biotech and Ewha Womans University – SOM Biotech and Ewha are leveraging artificial intelligence based screening technology. The three candidates they’re currently working on inhibit the main protease of SARS-CoV-2. Read more here.
17. Johnson & Johnson – Johnson & Johnson is working on a COVID-19 vaccine that uses the proprietary Advac PER.66 technology. It is currently in preclinical stages. You can read more about their work here.
20. Gilead – Gilead is working on Remdesivir. Currently in stage III, the drug is an adenosine analogue and effectively targets the viral RNA, causing premature termination by interfering with the activity of RNA-dependent RNA polymerase enzyme. Read more here.
21. ImmunoPrecise and EVQLV – Of course, we couldn’t leave out our own efforts. ImmunoPrecise and EVQLV are working on therapeutic and vaccine candidates using high-throughput computational antibody design. Although we’ve discussed our work at length on this blog, you can check out the official release here.
This list is nowhere near exhaustive. We welcome, in the form of comments below or by contacting us directly, any new information on promising treatments for COVID-19.