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CoViD-19 samples. Image designed by Freepik

CoViD-19: Nasal airway epithelial cell models for an antiviral drug

Since the beginning of the pandemic, First Health Pharmaceuticals has extended its commitment to the finding of a cure for CoViD-19 also, alongside its main research focus on HIV and other RNA viruses and cancer. This commitment includes its participation in a collaborative project led by University Medical Center Utrecht (UMC) which focuses on the limitation of severe symptoms caused by CoViD-19 through the investigation of antiviral compounds acting in respiratory tract. As such, nasal airway epithelial cell cultures to be used for large scale SARS-CoV-2 antiviral drug screening are being investigated.

The aim of the project is to develop a unique CoViD-19 biobank of viral isolates and nasal airway epithelial cells from patients, which will be used to quantitate in vitro characteristics related to virus-epithelium interactions, to screen compounds, and to study correlations with mild or severe COVID-19 in patients.

First Health Pharmaceuticals has a strong expertise in the field of human RNA helicases and has identified first-in-class inhibitors for this type of enzymes with antiviral activity against various viruses. These compounds that inhibit RNA translation mechanisms, have proven to be effective against several RNA viruses and have also shown some activity against SARS-CoV-2. Participation in this current project will allow First Health Pharmaceutical to reconfirm the activity of its compounds against SARS-CoV-2 in ex vivo models with high translational value.

The proposed efforts will help to prioritise candidate antiviral drugs for further drug development, and may lead to rapid clinical testing dependent on the identified hits. Identified molecular and cellular mechanisms that associate with clinical disease may be explored for diagnostic product development. The biobank and airway culture models used in this project will broadly support (inter)national efforts to control current and future airway infections.

The “Clinically-validated nasal airway epithelial cell models for COVID19 high throughput drug development” cooperation project is co-financed with a PPP (public-private partnership) allowance that has been made available by Health Holland – Top Sector Life Sciences & Health through a TKI-LSH match.

*Image designed by Freepik