In cell cultures analyzed in the current study, hrsACE2 inhibited the coronavirus load by a factor of 1,000-5,000. Credit: IMBA/Tibor Kulcsar
‘There is hope for this horrible pandemic,’ says UBC scientist Dr. Josef Penninger
An international team led by University of British Columbia researcher Dr. Josef Penninger has found a trial drug that effectively blocks the cellular door SARS-CoV-2 uses to infect its hosts.
The findings, published today in Cell, hold promise as a treatment capable of stopping early infection of the novel coronavirus that, as of April 2, has affected more than 981,000 people and claimed the lives of 50,000 people worldwide.
The study provides new insights into key aspects of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and its interactions on a cellular level, as well as how the virus can infect blood vessels and kidneys.
“We are hopeful our results have implications for the development of a novel drug for the treatment of this unprecedented pandemic,” says Penninger, professor in UBC’s faculty of medicine, director of the Life Sciences Institute and the Canada 150 Research Chair in Functional Genetics at UBC.
“This work stems from an amazing collaboration among academic researchers and companies, including Dr. Ryan Conder’s gastrointestinal group at STEMCELL Technologies in Vancouver, Nuria Montserrat in Spain, Drs. Haibo Zhang and Art Slutsky from Toronto and especially Ali Mirazimi’s infectious biology team in Sweden, who have been working tirelessly day and night for weeks to better understand the pathology of this disease and to provide breakthrough therapeutic options.”
ACE2 — a protein on the surface of the cell membrane — is now at centre-stage in this outbreak as the key receptor for the spike glycoprotein of SARS-CoV-2. In earlier work, Penninger and colleagues at the University of Toronto and the Institute of Molecular Biology in Vienna first identified ACE2, and found that in living organisms, ACE2 is the key receptor for SARS, the viral respiratory illness recognized as a global threat in 2003. His laboratory also went on to link the protein to both cardiovascular disease and lung failure.
While the COVID-19 outbreak continues to spread around the globe, the absence of a clinically proven antiviral therapy or a treatment specifically targeting the critical SARS-CoV-2 receptor ACE2 on a molecular level has meant an empty arsenal for health care providers struggling to treat severe cases of COVID-19.
“Our new study provides very much needed direct evidence that a drug — called APN01 (human recombinant soluble angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 – hrsACE2) — soon to be tested in clinical trials by the European biotech company Apeiron Biologics, is useful as an antiviral therapy for COVID-19,” says Dr. Art Slutsky, a scientist at the Keenan Research Centre for Biomedical Science of St. Michael’s Hospital and professor at the University of Toronto who is a collaborator on the study.
In cell cultures analyzed in the current study, hrsACE2 inhibited the coronavirus load by a factor of 1,000-5,000. In engineered replicas of human blood vessel and kidneys — organoids grown from human stem cells — the researchers demonstrated that the virus can directly infect and duplicate itself in these tissues. This provides important information on the development of the disease and the fact that severe cases of COVID-19 present with multi-organ failure and evidence of cardiovascular damage. Clinical grade hrsACE2 also reduced the SARS-CoV-2 infection in these engineered human tissues.
“Using organoids allows us to test in a very agile way treatments that are already being used for other diseases, or that are close to being validated. In these moments in which time is short, human organoids save the time that we would spend to test a new drug in the human setting,” says Núria Montserrat, ICREA professor at the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia in Spain.
“The virus causing COVID-19 is a close sibling to the first SARS virus,” adds Penninger. “Our previous work has helped to rapidly identify ACE2 as the entry gate for SARS-CoV-2, which explains a lot about the disease. Now we know that a soluble form of ACE2 that catches the virus away, could be indeed a very rational therapy that specifically targets the gate the virus must take to infect us. There is hope for this horrible pandemic.”
The Latest Updates from Bing News & Google News
Go deeper with Bing News on:
Blocking early stages of COVID-19
- Idaho COVID-19 latest: November 20-27on November 28, 2020 at 2:32 pm
Scroll down to see the latest daily updates. We're closely tracking Idaho's number of deaths and cases of the novel coronavirus as well as what's happening as COVID-19 continues to spread in Idaho .
- COVID-19 drugs from Lilly, Regeneron raise access, timing concernson November 28, 2020 at 11:47 am
The Lilly and Regeneron monoclonal antibodies mimic proteins the body normally makes to block ... in the early stages of the disease and may be highly infectious. Maryland is setting up four infusion ...
- ‘We Learned an Amazing Amount’: How the IDFA Team Snatched Victory From the Jaws of Defeat in the Face of COVID-19on November 28, 2020 at 8:41 am
The festival calendar has had its casualties in 2020, and after a brief glimmer of hope in the fall, with Venice and San Sebastian going ahead—almost—as normal, IDFA had high hopes of putting on a ...
- Could beta-blockers be a potential treatment for COVID-19?on November 27, 2020 at 5:17 am
Medical spoke to researchers about their latest research into beta-blockers, and how they could potentially be used to treat COVID-19.
- Georgia in early stages of full resurgence, White House COVID-19 report sayson November 24, 2020 at 8:17 pm
ATLANTA — As COVID-19 cases climb across the country, Georgia is in the early stages of full resurgence, according to the latest White House task force report. The report, which is dated Nov. 22, said ...
Go deeper with Google Headlines on:
Blocking early stages of COVID-19
Go deeper with Bing News on:
- Promising results from in vitro combination therapy against COVID-19on November 17, 2020 at 6:41 am
odowska-Curie Individual Fellowships. Some of the authors have reported conflicts of interest, including as shareholders and employees of Aperion Biologics, which develops the hrsACE2 drug APN01.
- APEIRON Biologics AG and Domainex Ltd announce the…on November 8, 2020 at 11:45 pm
APEIRON’s APN01 / alunacedase alfa (rhsACE2) is undergoing a Phase II trial to treat COVID-19. APEIRON Biologics has an approved product on the market, Qarziba ®, for the treatment of pediatric ...
- APEIRON Biologics AG Strengthens Shareholder Structure and Supervisory Board With International Anchor Investoron October 15, 2020 at 12:39 am
A case study recently published in the prestigious journal The Lancet Respiratory Medicine  for the first time shows encouraging data on the treatment of a COVID-19 patient with APN01. I would like ...
- Apeiron Biologicson April 29, 2017 at 5:50 pm
platform technology or capability, such as biologics. ... Apeiron Biologics AG/GSK. APN01 - recombinant human angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (rhACE2) in ARDS.