A Group of Researchers from IISER (Bhopal) and the University of Nebraska identified an existing common drug ‘Rapamycin’ that can be modified into a potential cure for COVID-19
The global pandemic has brought the world to a halt. Many research groups across the globe are trying to find a possible scientific cure for the novel coronavirus. Usually, a drug takes around 10-12 years to develop and be fit for consumption. Generally, a drug goes through multiple phases before reaching the market. Drug repurposing essentially means bypassing the early preliminary phases. This brings down the cost as well as the time required to develop the drug tremendously. However, the rampage of this pandemic is making us look for quicker solutions. Repurposing an existing drug as a potential cure for COVID-19 seems like the most viable option. It would save both time and lives. A collaborative effort of research teams based in Bhopal and Nebraska have done just that. They have found a way to vary a commonly used drug Rapamycin as a potential cure for COVID. This research was conducted by the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) Bhopal and University of Nebraska Medical Centre, Nebraska, (UNMC), U.S.A.
“The development of a new drug is time-consuming and cannot be relied on as a solution in combating the immediate pandemic. Drug repurposing is an attractive solution. An existing drug used to treat another related or unrelated ailment may be tested against COVID-19. This will save time’’ said Dr Amjad Husain, Principal Scientist and Chief Executive Officer, Innovation and Incubation Center for Entrepreneurship (IICE), IISER Bhopal. He mentions how he had long known Dr Siddappa N. Byrareddy, Associate Professor, Pharmacology, and Vice-Chair, Research at UNMC, USA. During one of their conversations, they exchanged a mutual interest in exploring the possibilities with ‘Rapamycin’ for the cure. And the partnership followed soon after.
How does Rapamycin work?
Rapamycin directly attacks the host cell. Thus, resisting the infection. Repurposed drugs such as Rapamycin targets mTOR that would directly affect the cellular functioning of the virus. It goes on to inhibit the replication of viruses and protein synthesis. Hence, yield a significant clinical benefit for the treatment of COVID-19. He further explained that Rapamycin would stand better than other antiviral drugs that attack viruses. With its proven efficacy in curing multiple ailments like cancer, obesity, etc. Rapamycin can be a promising treatment for COVID-19.
About the drug Rapamycin
Rapamycin is used for anti-ageing effects. It is common for the treatment of obesity, cancer patients and organ transplantations. According to several reports, the elders are prone to die because of COVID-19. Another report confirmed that young people with obesity also were falling prey to it. Rapamycin is known to reduce obesity through several pathways. It also induces autophagy, a cellular recycling process that eliminates the damaged proteins and delays ageing. Thus, it can certainly, help in mitigating risks in obese and elderly-people. Now that we already have Rapamycin approved for several indications, repurposing it to be potentially fit for treating COVID-19 looks like a favourable proposition.
Repurposing Drugs Is Not New
Repurposing a drug to use it for other purposes is not a new thing. Numerous drugs have been tried and tested to check their usage apart from the set indications. One of them is Remdesivir that was the first drug approved by the FDA for treating the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Generally, it is used to treat Hepatitis C infection. However, it had shown limited success in treating COVID-19 patients. Remdesivir attacks the viral component that can undergo mutations in due course of time. We know that the coronavirus is rapidly changing itself. With that, antiviral drugs such as Remdesivir fail to deliver. And that’s where Rapamycin comes into the picture.
Other Advantages of Rapamycin
The best part is that analogues of Rapamycin are freely available, unpatented and unprotected by a company, in the Indian market. It makes clinical tests easier. And then they can approve it for further processes. Many well-known research groups are pushing for the Rapamycin trials because of its promising aspect in treating COVID-19. Recently, a study published in the prestigious journal The Lancet-Healthy Longevity proposed the potential of Rapamycin analogues (rapalogs) to enhance resilience against SARS-CoV-2 infection. And if all goes well based on its success in phase 2, Rapamycin can get an emergency trial to be tested on the COVID-19 subjects soon. There is no universally approved vaccine for COVID-19 yet. The hunt for successful vaccines continues. Until then, any solution that can make things better should work. Right?