How doctors are fishing for COVID-19 cures.. and why drug companies may not like it.
To say that the internet has changed things is an egregious understatement.
It’s changed medicine for the better in many ways that I like – but drug companies won’t.
Every day I am asked to read many articles about COVID-19. Most are sensational articles, click-bait or reposts I have already seen so I ignore the vast majority of them. However, occasionally I see one that grabs my attention.
Like this one:
This article from Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology news. They discuss an article from Nature, titled, “Structure of Mpro from COVID-19 virus and discovery of its inhibitors.
In order to rapidly discover lead compounds for clinical use, the authors initiated a program of high-throughput drug screening. They are using laboratories and the latest computer software to predict how different drugs bind to the virus.
After assaying thousands of drugs, researchers found six that appeared to be effective in inhibiting the Mpro enzyme. The six compounds are ebselen, disulfiram, tideglusib, carmofur, shikonin, and PX-12.
Here’s where is gets interesting.
The team publicly released the list of candidate drugs—before publication—on January 25 and the structure of the COVID-19 virus Mpro on January 26, in advance of officially releasing the results. After the enzyme’s structure was made public, the team received more than 300 requests for more information.
“To provide an analogy, we’ve provided scientists with a fishing pole, the line, and the exact bait, and have in only one month caught some fish,” Guddat said. “Now it’s up to us and the other fisherman—our fellow scientists globally—to take full advantage of this breakthrough.” With continued and up-scaled efforts, he added, “we are optimistic that new candidates can enter the COVID-19 drug discovery pipeline in the near future.”
See what happened. They went right from the research to publication and dissemination in days. In the past this information would have been bogged down in committees, journal review processes, editorial boards, university and professional committees then would have been scrutinized by a pharmaceutical company to see if there was a new therapeutic target to go after which would allow them to patent and sell a new drug – and it would have been years before I heard about it. Now this information is available within day. And smart clinicians can take this information and use it. They can look at the list of therapies, see which ones are safe, already available (disulfiram in this case) and have intelligent and careful conversations with their patients. Once they have the clinical experience they can then share it with other clinicians.
In the age of the internet and social media we are crowd-sourcing cures.
Time to go fishing.