It often seems that Covid-19 vaccines and treatments are developed in far-off countries, like China and the US. However, the University of British Columbia is conducting research on a few potential Covid-19 therapeutics. Dr. Josef Penninger and his team at UBC developed one of the most promising research for Covid-19 treatments.
As a researcher in Toronto, Dr. Penninger co-discovered an enzyme called ACE2 in the late 90’s. During the SARS pandemic, Dr. Penninger observed that ACE2 serves as the gateway for the virus to enter healthy cells. Penninger and his team quickly developed a drug to block this enzyme. However, as the number of cases of SARS started to decline, so did the funding for clinical trials. More recently, with the outbreak of the Covid pandemic, Penninger’s research has become newly relevant. Dr. Penninger’s team devised APN01 as an antiviral therapy in an attempt to neutralize the virus.
How does the treatment work?
The APN01 is a soluble form of the ACE2, which effectively mimics the protein within the body. According to its researchers, it has three main functions. This includes the potential to prevent cells from infection with the Covid-19 virus, to reduce organ injuries, and to treat the inflammatory reactions in the lungs caused by Covid-19. The APN01 blocks ACE2 receptors and binds to spike proteins of the virus. Spike proteins are a kind of protein located on the surface of a virus. Their flexibility to change shape is how they help a virus enter a human cell. As a result, the APN01 neutralizes them and prevents infection of human cells. The treatment is also able to regulate blood pressure and fluid balance in order to reduce injuries to blood vessels and organs such as lungs, kidneys, or the heart. Furthermore, APN01 can benefit Covid patients by controlling inflammation. Research shows that it “reduces the release of proinflammatory proteins cytokines and chemokines.” These proteins are related to lung injury. As a result, APN01 reduces the inflammation caused by Covid-19.
Current Developmental Status
Apeiron Biologics initiated Phase 2 clinical trial in April 2020, in countries such as the UK, Germany, Austria, and Denmark. They established 24 clinical centers. Data on the trials should to come out by early 2021. Once they acquire clinical efficacy data, Apeiron Biologics aims to get approval from the European Medical Association.
Our world and the media is currently overly preoccupied with vaccines, while actual treatments of Covid-19 are overlooked. Thousands of people who currently have contracted Covid-19 – and those who will come in contact with the virus in the future – urgently need a consistently effective treatment. Therefore, the APN01 drug therapy, for instance, were it to prove to be a successful treatment option, would prove crucial currently, as well as in the future. Ultimately, treatments will help lessen people’s fear of the virus and make it feel more like a “bad cold” that can be cured by going to the hospital, rather than a life or death health matter.