Researchers in the US have discovered that an experimental cancer drug called AR-12 inhibits the Covid-19 virus from infecting cells and replicating.
AR-12 has been studied extensively as both an anti-cancer and anti-viral drug and showed that it is effective against viruses including Zika, mumps, measles, rubella, chikungunya, drug-resistant HIV and influenza.
“AR-12 works in a unique way. Unlike any other anti-viral drug, it inhibits cellular chaperones, which are proteins that are required to maintain the right 3D shape of viral proteins,” said study author Paul Dent from the Virginia Commonwealth University in the US.
“The shape of the virus is critical to its ability to infect and replicate,” Dent added.
According to the study, published in the journal Biochemical Pharmacology, one of the cellular chaperones inhibited by AR-12 is GRP78, which is essential for the reproduction of all viruses.
GRP78 acts as a sort of cellular stress sensor and is required for the life cycle of all mammalian viruses.
Researcher Andrew Poklepovic, who is leading efforts to translate these exciting findings into a clinical trial, said: “AR-12 is an oral therapy that has been well-tolerated in a prior clinical trial, so we know that it is safe and tolerable.
“Most Covid-19 drugs are given intravenously, so this would be a unique therapeutic option and potentially suitable for outpatient therapy, similar to the way one would take an antibiotic,” Poklepovic added.
Poklepovic hopes to begin enrolling patients in early 2021, but several milestones remain.
“For help reaching these significant milestones and moving forward with this research at the accelerated pace that we know is needed, we turned to our colleague at Massey, Said Sebti, who has extensive experience in drug development,” said Poklepovic.
“We are working to submit the required information for US FDA approvals, and we are also in discussions with a local pharmaceutical company to manufacture the drug for the trial,” the study authors wrote.
“We are hopeful that AR-12 will emerge as a treatment option for patients suffering from COVID-19, ultimately saving lives and contributing to the global pandemic solution,” they noted.