Bioengineers from Russian hi-tech pharma company R-Pharm are working on a drug that will bind the new coronavirus and stop it from inflaming the lungs, which sometimes causes them to fail, the company's chief executive, Vasily Ignatiev, has told Sputnik in an interview
MOSCOW (Pakistan Point News / Sputnik - 06th April, 2020) Bioengineers from Russian hi-tech pharma company R-Pharm are working on a drug that will bind the new coronavirus and stop it from inflaming the lungs, which sometimes causes them to fail, the company's chief executive, Vasily Ignatiev, has told Sputnik in an interview.
The experimental molecule is designed to mimic an ACE2 receptor on the surface of the alveolar cell membrane, the now confirmed gateway for SARS-CoV-2. By tricking the virus into fusing with it, the bioengineered molecule prevents it from infecting the epithelial cell of the lung and multiplying within the tissue.
"The idea is that the molecule serves as a trap for the virus: it binds with the virus and stops it from accessing cells in lung tissue, at least a large number of them. This either prevents or significantly reduces inflammation," Ignatiev explained.
The decoy and the virus it captured are then exhaled or coughed out with mucus.
The drug is expected to work in people of all ages but its effectiveness will depend on the number of cell receptors in the lung, which grows with age.
"Children have almost no [ACE2] receptors, while young people have very few of them. The older you get the more of them you have. The more the receptors the higher the risk that the virus will bind with them � and that is when the drug is the most effective. We will have the full evidence once the research is complete," Ignatiev said.
The research is in its early stages. R-Pharm was one of the first to file an international patent application, Ignatiev believes, although the idea behind it is simple enough to occur to other pharmaceutical companies, both in Russia and abroad.
"As soon as it became clear that the virus binds with ACE2 receptors the obvious conclusion was that you can control viral growth by targeting it with a substance that acts as a decoy. We cannot be the only ones pursuing the research in this direction," he suggested.
R-Pharm's laboratory in San Diego in California is already working on the cell culture, in which the new experimental molecule will be grown.
"As soon as the cell culture is ready the Moscow office will take over most of the work. It will be in charge of preclinical and clinical trials. Simultaneously, we will be organizing the production, first experimental production and then industrial production," Ignatiev said.
The drug will be manufactured in the Russian city of Yaroslavl, northeast of Moscow. The R-Pharm CEO, who is also vice-chair at the Moscow-based Association of International Pharmaceutical Manufacturers, said the drug will most likely come in bottles or injections.
"If we decide that we need support for this, we will request it as we have done for other projects. Setting up a production line and clinical trials cost the most money. We already have a production facility but it will cost us a lot anyway," Ignatiev admitted.
The World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 disease outbreak, which has been caused by the spread of the novel coronavirus, a pandemic on March 11. The virus has infected more than a million people worldwide and killed tens of thousands.