Monday, May 18, 2020

University’s Drugs Can Fight COVID-19 Killer Cytokine Storm

University of Greenwich's COVID drugs are tested but need big pharmaceutical buy-in for fast track
The treatment stops immune system overload, known as cytokine storm.  The drugs already effective against sepsis, cancer and inflammatory problems

A COVID-19 treatment that could potentially also help protect cancer and organ transplant patients is being developed at the University of Greenwich.

The university has identified and developed compounds that can inhibit the multiple cytokine proteins that can cause death by respiratory collapse, following COVID 19 infection.

This scanning electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2 (orange)—also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus that causes COVID-19—isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells (green) cultured in the lab.
Image captured and colorized at NIAID's Rocky Mountain Laboratories (RML) in Hamilton, Montana.NIAID

Dr Mike Leach has developed the compounds, known as UoG-alpha and UoG-beta. He says: “A major force that kills people who have COVID-19 is what’s known as the cytokine storm. This is essentially a massive overload of the body’s immune system in response to the virus.

“Vaccination is what the government is suggesting for the future as being key to how we live ‘normally’. That makes sense of course but, as a complement, we need a drug therapy that can be used by someone with COVID symptoms before their ‘perfect storm’. This would mean they don’t need to go to hospital, although it could be used there as well.

“What we have identified and developed at the university are compounds that can control cytokines, which we know are contributing to Covid-19 deaths. We have been working with these small molecules for many years and they have shown themselves to control multiple target proteins linked with many disorders, such as sepsis, cancer and various inflammatory problems.

3D illustration of the novel coronavirus
Credit: NIH

“I believe a controllable drug therapy, able to prevent our immune system from disabling the body’s lung function during a cytokine storm, is what is needed. In combination with effective vaccines, this is the armoury we must develop to deal with COVID, a disease that is here to stay.”

Dr Leach’s research suggests that a possible way of controlling a cytokine storm is to control the inhibition of most of the key cytokine proteins that are active in the storm at the same time.

He adds that his compounds are shown to inhibit many parts of the storm, whereas other therapeutics, currently being suggested by the Pharma industry to control the inflammatory response, only target small parts of the storm.

Dr Leach adds: “As a medicine this could be taken orally, which brings other benefits, such as reduced risk of side effects as dose can be individually adjusted. Tablets or capsules are usually also easier to scale up in production, as well as being cheaper. There is also the potential to use them in combination with other therapies, thus targeting the storm process and preserving lung function.

“At the university, we have progressed a long way but our potential magic bullets now need to be plugged into the pharma industry development gun, because they can fast track this into clinical therapy.

“Much of the data expected by the Pharma Industry for validating pre-clinical small molecules has already been procured and is available. With the right company this could be fast tracked for medical use.”

People with COVID-19 have had a wide range of symptoms reported – ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness.

Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. People with these symptoms may have COVID-19:
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Sore throat
  • New loss of taste or smell
This list is not all possible symptoms. Other less common symptoms have been reported, including gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.
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Contacts and sources:
University of Greenwich


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