New drug promises to change Covid-19 response, gets nod for human trials

The regulatory body for drugs in the United States, the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) has given a go-ahead for the human clinical testing of a new drug being developed by researchers of Emory University.

Named EIDD-2801, the drug is being touted as a ‘relief drug’ for Covid-19. The results of the anti-viral drug being developed by researchers at UNC-Chapel Hill Gillings School of Global Public Health was recently published, which showed that it could “prevent severe lung injury in mice infected with the associated virus SARS-CoV”. Similar results were visible with cultured human lung cells infected with SARS-CoV-2 as well.

What’s the big deal about EIDD-2801?

The new drug is claimed to be a dedicated anti-coronavirus drug which promises to be effective against the entire virus family known as coronavirus. Other interventions against the novel coronavirus under development include the development of vaccines, reuse of old drugs such as hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) and Avigan and convalescent plasma therapy.

While a vaccine may take 12-18 months to come to life with a significant risk of unknown long-term side-effects and issues of overall effectiveness, anti-viral drugs such as HCQ and Avigan have not been able to win the decisive vote of medical experts due to various reasons including the side-effects. The convalescent plasma therapy is a complicated therapy which requires advanced hospital infrastructure.

The EIDD-2801, on the other hand, is a simple new anti-viral drug which has shown effective results against Covid-19 and can be taken as a pill. “This new drug not only has a high potential for treating Covid-19 patients but also appears effective for the treatment of other serious coronavirus infections,” said Ralph Baric, Professor at Department of Microbiology and Immunology in a statement.

“When given as a treatment 12 or 24 hours after the infection has begun, EIDD-2801 can reduce the degree of lung damage and weight loss in mice, which is expected to be longer in humans,” the researchers said.

Clinical studies of the drug in humans are expected to begin in a few weeks time. If successful, the researchers hope this drug to be the first line of defence against the coronavirus, preventing future outbreaks.

Unlike most other potential Covid-19 treatments which require to be administered intravenously, this drug can be delivered orally as a pill “which offers a potential advantage for treating less ill patients where many people have been exposed but not sick yet,” a statement from Emory University said.

The research team has entered into an agreement with pharma company Ridgeback Biotherapeutics for trial and development of the drug.