Perth-based company PharmAust (ASX: PAA) has announced positive preliminary results in experiments aimed at inhibiting the virus that causes COVID-19.
Traditionally focused on repurposing existing drugs for cancer therapy, PharmAust is exploring the potential of monepantel (MPL), a drug traditionally used against gastrointestinal deadworms in sheep.
Experiments with MPL and monepantel sulfone (MPLS) have been undertaken by Melbourne's Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research on PharmAust's behalf, testing the active ingredients' effects on cells infected with SARS-CoV-2 in tissue culture.
Today PharmAust came out of a trading halt after announcing these tests demonstrated both infectivity and replication of SARS-CoV-2 virus particles can be suppressed by between 50-95 per cent in cell cultures.
Virologists at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute demonstrated that in preliminary experiments both MPL and MPLS reduce the capacity of SARS-CoV-2 to replicate as well as the capacity of SARS-CoV-2 to mature into infectious virus particles.
Of note, relatively low concentrations of monepantel blocked the infectious capacity of SARS-CoV-2 in tissue culture.
Based on the above findings, PharmAust has moved to broaden and extend its intellectual property in the area of anti-viral activity through the filing of a patent application specifically covering MPL in the treatment of COVID-19.
"PharmAust is excited by this early data set and is looking forward to continuing the project with the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute," says PharmAust's chief scientific officer Dr Richard Mollard.
"Continuation will involve repetition of these experiments for validation and comparisons with other mTOR inhibitors and treatments currently in the clinic."
Walter and Eliza Hall Institute researcher Professor Marc Pellegrini says these early signs demonstrating that monepantel can block SARS-CoV-2 infectivity in vitro are encouraging.
Updated at 11:19am AEST on 4 June 2020.
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