Collaborating to Fight COVID-19

May 22, 2020 | Biotechnology

Reading time: 6 minutes

Fresh from GEN – Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News, here is a noteworthy Biotechnology article for you:

The U.S., like many countries around the world, is reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic, causing significant loss of life as well as considerable uncertainty as to how small companies will survive. Fighting the SARS-CoV-2 virus needs a startup company mentality. At my small drug discovery company, each day is an emotional rollercoaster as we grind away, prepared for anything and everything. We are not only hanging on as a company, we are fighting back and pitching into the search for drugs to cure COVID-19.

How did we get here? On January 29, I was seated 20 feet away from Anthony Fauci, MD, as he delivered a brief lecture at BioThreats 2020. I’d heard him talk a few times before, but on this day his tone was unusual; he insisted that this novel coronavirus was going to be different from SARS. As he made a quick exit after 20 minutes1 I shivered. Having followed the news from China, Fauci’s address left me in no doubt that it was going to be a grim year. The U.S. government’s reaction was slow and ultimately ineffective as February 2 travel restrictions were imposed on flights from China. Many pandemic warning signs over the years, from former presidents, authors, scientists, and intelligence reports, had been missed.2

Back at my small company, Collaborations Pharmaceuticals, which works on rare and neglected diseases (including Ebola, HIV, Enteroviruses, and Zika), I started to plan for what happens next. Weeks before the official shutdown, we told our team to be ready for the worst and prepare to work from home. We put the finishing touches on manuscripts for a 50-year-old drug called tilorone, for which we had collected data on Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).3,4 This ultimately reached InterChem, a Ukrainian company that makes the drug and they were interested in seeing how it could be used in the pandemic.

Unlike previous outbreaks such as Ebola and Zika, we had not rushed to work on SARS-CoV-2, but... Want to read more? View the whole article in the GEN Blog.

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