At two anonymous Pfizer buildings, one in the U.S. and one in Belgium, a remarkable experiment is under way. Up to 60 volunteers, all clean-living adults aged between 18 and 60, are being given the first pill specifically designed to stop COVID-19.
If the trial is successful, it is just possible a home cure for COVID-19 will become available later this year.
The molecule being tested is a bespoke antiviral code-named PF-07321332. Classed as a “protease inhibitor”, it has been formulated to attack the “spine” of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and stop it replicating in our nose, throats and lungs. It was protease inhibitors that turned the tide on the spread of HIV and around the world.
Now researchers hope they may be on the brink of a similar pandemic-busting breakthrough.
The antiviral pill was developed from scratch during the current pandemic, Dafydd Owen, director of medicinal chemistry at Pfizer, told a private symposium of the Division of Medicinal Chemistry last month.
The first seven milligrams of the compound – no more than a raindrop — were made in late July 2020. By late October, they’d made 100 grams.
Just two weeks later, they had more than a kilogram in the bag. It took 210 researchers to do it, said Owen.
Pfizer is keeping schtum about the detail of the lab tests it has completed but says it has demonstrated “potent in vitro antiviral activity against SARS-CoV-2”, as well as activity against other coronaviruses, raising the prospect of a cure for the common cold as well as future pandemic threats.
“We have designed PF-07321332 as a potential oral therapy that could be prescribed at the first sign of infection, without requiring that patients are hospitalised or in critical care”, said Mikael Dolsten, chief scientific officer and president of worldwide research, development and medical at Pfizer, in a statement released last month. (NNT)
Source: The Telegraph