The coronavirus has already taken the lives of nearly 90,000 Americans and is projected to take more. Utah State University scientists are researching new drugs to treat the novel coronavirus.
“The majority of the research that we're doing for the COVID-19 is trying to identify novel drugs that can be used to treat COVID-19," said Professor Brett Hurst, an antiviral researcher at Utah State University.
He said the first step in finding a drug that can treat coronavirus is testing whether human cells can survive attacks from the virus with the aid of a novel drug using a cell culture.
“Then we use dilutions of our different test drugs that we're interested in evaluating," Hurst said. "We will see if the drugs are able to protect the cells from the virus. And if the drugs are more effective than the virus, the cell should still be alive at the end of the experiment.”
The next step is animal testing. Once they’ve determined an animal's coronavirus symptoms, Hurst said they can treat the animals with the drugs that proved to be successful in the human-cell model.
Hurst said the process to develop a novel drug treatment for the virus is more complicated than creating a vaccine.
“The vaccines are probably a little bit quicker as far as getting those to market, if they're starting from scratch, just because they kind of have a good idea of how to do that quickly,” Hurst said. “The drugs are a little bit more difficult because of the other side effects that you can have by treating people with a novel drug. And so they do like to have a very good safety profile to determine if those drugs are well tolerated before they will suggest that we use those in people.”
If the novel drug proves to be successful in the animal models, Hurst said they can move onto FDA approval.