SDBN BUZZ Podcast: Repositioning Drugs as Potential Therapies for COVID-19

In this episode we visit the front lines of science. We’re all aware of the health care workers on the front lines of treatment, but what is it like to do research on the novel coronavirus? And what are the strategies?

Drs. Sumit Chanda and Laura Martin-Sancho describe for me their efforts at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute. The strategy is to screen thousands of drugs that have already been through clinical trials with known safety profiles to see which ones may interfere with viral replication.

It starts with instructing a researcher in Hong Kong by iPhone video in the middle of the night on how to do the initial screening. After repeating the screen and reviewing the data, the 300 (out of about 3000) best candidates are chosen for further study.

Laura works in a BSL3 (Bio Safety Level 3) facility to test whether the selected compounds can still inhibit replication at doses that are achievable in a patient. Working in a negative pressure lab and changing in and out of scrubs and a respirator several times a day is not easy.

They are optimistic about the results so far.  Any potential treatment will have to do better than what is currently available. The current standard is Remdesivir.

Even if nothing works out, we will certainly learn about the biology of the virus which could help in developing treatments down the road. We also briefly discussed the prospect of broad spectrum anti-viral drugs. The dependence of viruses on host functions means they may share host processes that can be inhibited.

We’re all rooting for their success.