A University of British Columbia investigator led an international team that has discovered an experimental drug that effectively blocks the cellular door to SARS-CoV-2 used to infect humans. The group previously offered the first genetic evidence that Angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) is the critical receptor for SARS-CoV and that ACE2 protects the lungs from injury—hence pointing to the molecular rational for severe lung failure and associate death because of SARS-CoV infections. This important work results from a collaboration of prominent academic researchers and companies such as Vancouver’s STEMMCELL Technologies and individuals and institutions from Spain, Canada, and Sweden’s Karolinska Institutet. This multinational research effort concludes that an investigational treatment called APN01 may be capable of inhibiting COVID-19 by reducing the SARS-CoV-2 load that penetrates the lungs and other organs. A Vienna Austria-based biotech named Aperion Biologics will now take APN01 into clinical trials in Europe.
The research findings were recently published in Cell, reflecting the ongoing research of a heavy-hitting multi-national team of researchers. This group claims they provided the first genetic evidence of the importance of ACE2 in association with SARS-CoV-2, the virus behind the COVID-19 pandemic. The team points out that ACE2 is identified as a key receptor for SARS-CoV-2 infections, and hence the possibility of inhibiting this interaction could be used to treat patients with COVID-19. The team’s study reveals that clinical grade human recombinant soluble ACE2 (hrsACE2) reduces SARS-CoV-2 recovery from Vero cells by a factor of 1,000-5,000. They highlight an equivalent mouse rsACE2 had no effect. Based on this and other findings, the team declared that hrsACE2 can materially block early stages of SARS-CoV-2 infections.
The Drug: APN01
The researchers point that the experimental drug called APN01 (human recombinant soluble angiotensin-converting enzyme 2—hrsACE2) will soon go into clinical trials by the European biotech venture called Aperion Biologics. Dr. Art Slutksy, a scientist at the Keenan Research Centre for Biomedical Science of St. Michael’s Hospital and a University of Toronto professor and part of the international research collaboration—believes APN01 may be as useful as effective antiviral therapy.