A research team from Mizoram University from northwestern India recently published the results of a study titled, ‘Step toward repurposing drug discovery for COVID-19 therapeutics through in silico approach.” Funded by the Indian government’s Ministry of Science and Technology (Department of Biotechnology), the group remind all of the devastating health and economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, declaring that no effective vaccine or therapy is yet available, despite an intensive past ten months of drug discovery and development efforts. As seen from one point of view (e.g. that the average therapy takes many years of research and development) it’s actually amazing what the pharmaceutical industry, government agencies, and academic researchers have pulled off, including one approved therapy (remdesivir), two therapies available via emergency use authorization (Lilly’s monoclonal antibody and convalescent plasma), and the finding that dexamethasone can reduce death rates in certain severe cases. Moreover, based on interim data, Pfizer and BioNTech recently declared that their experimental vaccine showed great promise. However, viewed from another lens, this isn’t enough and the government should be doing far more to understand the potential of promising repurposed therapies, such as the ones identified by the team in India, including ivermectin. Given drug discovery is so time consuming, especially in crisis times such as now, the researchers suggest employing computational methods to identify alternative approaches for discovering drugs targeting COVID-19. After all, the pandemic is only worsening now and much of the world doesn’t have much in the form of disposable income for expensive therapies. Hence why the team at Mizoram University virtually screened a library of several antiparasitic and anti-inflammatory drugs to identity potential inhibitors of SARS-CoV-2. They suggest the results could be helpful in repurposing the drug discovery approach in pandemic times.
Research Leading to Treatments for All
TrialSite’s unwavering commitment to research transparency and accessibility led to the possibility that existing approved drugs, such as the antiparasitic drug ivermectin, reveals potential in dozens of case series, observational studies and some randomized controlled studies (although in the latter they aren’t optimally designed).
Much of the world’s population still faces stark economic reality and the ripples of the COVID-19 pandemic wave only harshen the future for many, at least in the short to intermediate run. Cost effective, widely available treatments must be found, if possible and there certainly appears to be material promise with some of these agents such as ivermectin. Of course, more study occurs and that’s the point of the effort done at Mizoram.
The team uncovered via their computational drug discovery study uncovered that not only ivermectin but also atovaquone, Posaconazole, doxycycline, moxidectin, amphotericin B, chlortetracycline, spiramycin, sulfasalazine, parecoxib, and etoricoxib exhibited good binding affinities with SARS-CoV-2 proteases. The team suggests that the identified drugs may potentially serve as possible in vitro inhibitors. Interestingly, at least according to these findings hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine failed to evidence good binding affinity with any of the novel coronavirus’ proteases. Of course, the team highlights the need for in vitro studies.
TrialSite is perhaps the most active online media dedicated to research chronicling ivermectin studies during the pandemic. Dozens of case series, observational studies and even randomized controlled studies around the world have produced sufficient evidence for the notice of the National institutes of Health (NIH). In particular, the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) acknowledges the cost and high risk of new therapeutic development noting in relation to the pandemic “NCATS is particularly interested in projects that repurpose existing drugs or biologics (existing therapeutics) that have already begun or completed a Phase 1 clinical trial.”
Presently at least 41 clinical trials involving ivermectin and COVID-19 are registered in the United States alone. Several studies have already been completed (various Phases) with promising results. Factor in observational studies such as the notable ICON study in Broward County, Florida—published in peer-reviewed journal Chest. A few U.S. universities started ivermectin studies in the U.S., however one dropped the study while the other is still ongoing (University of Kentucky).
The biopharmaceutical industry is making considerable progress with both novel vaccine and therapy candidates and low cost repurposed drugs will also be part of a comprehensive program for worldwide combat against COVID-19.
Lead Research/investigator (Corresponding Author)
Ved Prakash Singh, PhD, MSc. Department of Chemistry, School of Physical Sciences, Mizoram University