Vaccines remain the most effective weapon against Covid. But the proliferation of variants is accelerating the search for “universal” drugs to block the virus, in all its mutations. A successful case could come from a research published in the Journal of Proteome Research, signed by Setayesh Yazdani, Nicola De Maio, Yining Ding, Vijay Shahani, Nick Goldman and Matthieu Schapira. The authors, from the University of Toronto (Canada), analyzed viral proteins in 27 coronavirus species and thousands of samples from Covid patients, with the aim of finding protein sequences that could be “targeted” by drugs. The outlet is expected to be an effective medicine against all variants of the coronavirus.
In search of the sequence to “target”
The premise of the research was to identify proteins that remained constant between various coronavirus species, indicating to the drugs where to intervene to counter the infection. Today vaccines mainly affect the Spike protein, but it is not among those that remain identical in the variants of the virus found so far. Through an algorithm, the team led by Matthieu Schapira discovered two of them (nsp12 and nsp13) shared by all 27 coronavirus species analyzed by the survey. To put it simply, these are ideal targets for a drug. “Viruses mutate, as we know. But if they maintain the same precise protein structures, it means that these are very important, ”Schapira explained to the newspaper la Repubblica. According to Science Daily, a specialized US newspaper, drugs that target nsp12 have already reached phase II and III of clinical trials, while a product that focuses on nsp13 should become a “priority” for the development of new drugs.
The search for an anti-Covid drug, from US investments to the green light of the EMA
The search for a “pan-coronavirus” drug, a drug valid for all coronavirus variants, has become even more valuable with the multiplication of variants capable of evading vaccination coverage. But in reality, research has been underway for months, with billionaire investments, to patent solutions that alternate with or integrate the administration of vaccines. In June 2021, the US administration launched the so-called Antiviral Program for Pandemics, a $ 3.2 billion plan to accelerate the development and testing of antiviral drugs to stem the disease. In Europe we are proceeding in a similar direction, even if the supply of medicines “cleared” by the health authorities is very limited.
The only antiviral currently approved by EMA, the European Medicines Agency, appears to be Remdesivir: a medicine developed by the company Gilead Sciences, previously used against the Ebola epidemic. It can only be given by infusion in the hospital, with treatment ranging from a minimum of 5 to a maximum of 10 days and an initial dosage of 200 milligrams (to drop to 100 milligrams in the rest of the treatment).