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San Diego Scientists Test Thousands of COVID-19 Drugs, Say Some Look Promising

The next step for the drugs that displayed progressive results is to move forward to clinical testing

NBCUniversal, Inc.

Local scientists at the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute are working on finding an antiviral drug to treat COVID-19.

Sumit Chanda, PHD, and his colleagues are using what’s called the ReFRAME drug re-purposing collection. It involves testing a library of existing drugs that have been used successfully to treat other viruses.

Using live samples of the novel coronavirus, derived from a patient in Washington State, scientists tested 13,000 FDA approved compounds against them to find their effectiveness. Chanda told NBC 7 that 300 of the drugs seem promising, with good results. The institute hopes to narrow it down so they could be used as a cocktail, combining one or two of the drugs to fight the virus.

"They're very good at mutating and evading the activity of drugs, so we can get two or three drugs that work and administer a cocktail like we do for HIV," said Chanda.

“Typically it takes 5 to 10 years to make a drug. Obviously, we don't have that kind of time and so this strategy will allow us to take drugs that have had exposure in humans. We know they're safe. We can show in the lab that they are efficacious against the virus and then move very quickly into clinical trials shaving years and years,” said Chanda.

He told NBC 7 an anti-viral drug available to the public is about a year and a half out. In the meantime, he has a word of caution for the public.

"As far as treatment goes there's a lot of things coming out on the internet, on your Facebook page or your WhatsApp feed saying that this is going to cure it, that's going to cure it. Leave it to the medical professionals. Leave it to the people who do that for a living. There are things that are coming down the pike that look really promising," said Chanda

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