The chase for effective COVID-19 treatments is well and truly on after biotech company Biotron (ASX: BIT) confirmed it intends to harness its proprietary compounds to develop a treatment for SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes the COVID-19 infection.
Moreover, after completing initial assays on almost 50 different compounds, Biotron said its initial screening program has “successfully identified” a subset of 15 compounds that showed “activity” against SARS-CoV-2.
To complete its assaying, Biotron turned to NATA-accredited laboratory 360biolabs, based in Melbourne. The biotech company said 47 different compounds were screened in an industry-standard cytopathic effect (CPE) cell-culture assay. Biotron’s compounds were first diluted before SARS-CoV-2 was added and the samples incubated for four days.
After the four days of incubation, viable cells were measured via MTT staining, representing cell protection from virus infection, the company said.
Compounds that demonstrated promising activity in that first assay then underwent confirmatory testing in a second anti-SARS-CoV-2 assay. The endpoint for the CPE assay was cell protection from virus infection.
As part of the secondary yield-reduction assay stage, Biotron used three compound concentrations and combined them with SARS-CoV-2 for 48 hours.
The endpoint for the second stage was a reduction in the yield of infectious virus with compounds showing a greater than 20% reduction in virus spread, considered as having “confirmed activity”.
Biotron managing director Michelle Miller said the results to date are “encouraging”.
“There is a need for new ways to treat this disease, and Biotron believes that these results open up a promising new therapeutic pathway,” she said.
“The results underscore the versatility of Biotron’s approach to designing and developing drugs to target serious virus infections,” Ms Miller added.
Developing a treatment for COVID-19
Currently, Biotron is progressing its lead drug BIT225, a treatment of HIV-1 and Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections, with seven clinical trials already completed.
Additionally, the biotech company wields a portfolio of preclinical anti-viral programs developing drugs targeting a range of significant established and emerging viral diseases such as Dengue, Zika and Influenza virus.
With early assay results now obtained, Biotron is preparing to conduct further screening on additional compounds before it can move onto animal testing and human clinical trials.
Screening of these additional new compounds is expected to conclude by the end of 2020 with Biotron hopeful it can develop a potent druggable compound that can be progressed through clinical trials and eventually, certified by regulators in major market territories such as the United States, Australia and Europe.
Regulator expediency and public pressure to find a suitable treatment for COVID-19 have led to a surge in the clinical development of drugs aimed at treating the condition. Regulators around the world have collectively vowed to expedite review of COVID-19 related treatments including vaccines, in a bid to reduce the severity of the pandemic.
According to multiple media sources, the US and Russia have become embroiled in a fresh episode of the Cold War, with both nations competing to become the first to develop a COVID-19 vaccine.