A research team at the Institut Pasteur Korea have identified a drug that appears to be more effective in treating COVID-19 than Gilead’s remdesivir.
The drug is called Nafamostat, which is used to treat pancreatic cancer, and it is a potent antiviral inhibitor. This was proven to be the most effective out of 24 therapeutic candidates, with these drugs being tested in an experiment with a Vero cell culture.
Vero cells are a cell lineage that originated from the kidney of the African Green monkey, and it is frequently used in cell cultures.
Kim Seung-taek, Director of the Zoonotic Virus Lab at the Institut Pasteur Korea, said: “The coronavirus causes the disease COVID-19 when it infiltrates the human lungs. Considering that the coronavirus’s infection of Vero cells differed from its infection of lung cells, we carried out an additional experiment on human lung cell cultures.”
The team’s experiment found that Nafamostat had little efficacy in inhibiting the coronavirus in Vero cells but it was the most potent in the treatments in lung cells. Nafamostat’s concentration of the substance needed to inhibit viral replication, known as IC50, was found to be 13.88μm in Vero cells but 0.0022μm in lung cells, and this was 600 times smaller than the 1.3μm results for remdesivir in lung cells.
Based on this evidence, the Korean Ministry of Food and Drug Safety (MFDS) have said that the Institut can go forward with their clinical trials. This will involve 10 hospitals and will be supervised by Bae In-gyu, a professor of infectious disease at Gyeongsang National University Hospital.
Since the drug has already been approved in both Japan and Korea as a pancreatitis medication, researchers can skip past animal testing which is the standard first part of clinical trials. If the study is a success, Nafamostat could be used to treat COVID-19 at large in Korea.