Gero, the so-called longevity biotech has announced that their proprietary platform has identified a number of potential drugs to treat the current pandemic. The Singapore-based firm reported that six of the identified drugs have already been approved and a further three are approved but withdrawn from the market.
In the absence of a vaccine for the novel virus, researchers have scrambled to investigate whether there is an existing drug in our arsenal of already approved medicines that could significantly reduce coronavirus replication. Finding such a needle in the haystack would bypass years of pre-clinical development, as phase three trials could start in a matter of weeks.
One trial that has recently begun at phase III is evaluating Baricitinib, an anti-Janus kinase inhibitor that’s licensed to treat rheumatoid arthritis, in a hospital near Florence, Italy.
The drugs identified by the Gero AI platform were:
- Niclosamide: Sold under the brand name Niclocide is an oral anthelmintic drug approved for human use against tapeworm infections. Although approved in many countries, it is not in the US. The drug inhibits glucose uptake and anaerobic metabolism in the parasites.
- Nitazoxanide: Is a broad-spectrum anti-parasitic and anti-viral, that under the brand name Alinia and Nizonide are approved to treat intestinal protozoan parasites. A 2019 double-blinded controlled trial showed however, that that Nitazoxanide was not effective in reducing respiratory viral infections including influenza.
- Afatinib: Is a tyrosine kinase inhibitor used in the treatment of metastatic non-small cell lung carcinoma. Sold under several brand names including Gilotrif and Afanix across 29 countries.
- Ixazomib: Best known under the brand name Ninlaro, is an oral treatment for multiple myeloma in combination with lenalidomide and dexamethasone. It’s been approved in the US and some other European countries.
- Reserpine: Once widely used for antihypertensive indications, usually in combination with a vasodilator, is not currently approved in the US, but remains in some EU countries.
- Several Senolytics: this class of small molecules are currently being trialled in the treatment of age-related diseases including osteoarthritis, and are widely promised to be next big thing in anti-aging treatments.
Despite Trump’s wildly uneducated prediction that hydroxychloroquine, an antimalarial combination, would be a “game-changer” in the treatment of the virus, preliminary results in China haven’t shown much promise. This limited study will of course need to be extended before the drug is ruled out, but it highlights why efforts in drug repurposing remain crucial at this stage.