Australian clinical stage company Biotron (ASX: BIT) has announced it will commence the evaluation of “several promising compounds” which could target various strains of coronavirus, including the deadly 2019-nCoV creating a global health issue.
Biotron has over 30 compounds in its proprietary small molecule compound library which have “good activity” against a range of coronaviruses, including human coronaviruses which cause mild, cold-like symptoms as well as the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) coronavirus which was responsible for an outbreak in 2003.
Several of the compounds are believed to have broad-spectrum activity against multiple strains of coronaviruses and could effectively reduce the levels of coronavirus in infected cell cultures by up to 100%.
In response to the China outbreak of 2019-nCoV, Biotron is now focused on testing a select set of these compounds to see if they can destroy the virus.
The work will be done under contract in specialist laboratories with access to the virus, which has only been isolated and made available for such studies in recent days.
Biotron said it would prioritise the testing of compounds which have shown broad-spectrum activity against different coronaviruses.
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses found in animals and humans.
Some of them are known to cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as SARS and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).
A novel coronavirus (CoV) is defined as a new strain which has not been previously identified in humans – a prime example being the current 2019-nCoV which had not been previously detected before its December outbreak in Wuhan, China.
Infection with 2019-nCoV can cause mild symptoms such as a runny nose, sore throat, cough, and fever.
At its worst, it can lead to pneumonia or breathing difficulties and more rarely, death.
Older people and those with pre-existing conditions such as, diabetes and heart disease are believed to be more vulnerable to becoming severely ill with the virus.
The World Health Organisation said the current spate of humans infected with the 2019-nCoV strain most likely originated from an animal source at a live animal market in China.