‘A strategy to find potential covid-19 treatments is to repurpose drugs already approved for other diseases, but the current methods to do this are expensive, time consuming and not fit-for-purpose.’
Scientists led by the Australian Government’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) have received A$1.7 million in funding to develop faster methods for rapidly screening existing drugs that may prove useful for treating covid-19. The aim is to have three suitable drug candidates to progress to phase 2-3 human clinical trials within a year.
The Australian Government’s Medical Research Future Fund is providing A$1 million of the funding, while CSIRO is contributing the remainder. This new initiative builds on existing collaborations on the long-term impacts of covid-19.
The researchers will focus their work on four types of human tissue from the lower respiratory tract, lung, neural and cardiac tissue. The researchers said that neural and cardiac tissue were highly relevant as the diseases is known to cause neurological disorders and heart dysfunction in some patients.
Novel systems biology and machine learning methods will be used to differentiate between healthy and diseased tissue, which researchers say will enable additional methods for determining if a drug is able to reliably restore a diseased tissue to a healthier state.
Professor S. S. Vasan; CSIRO Dangerous Pathogens Teams Leader and Principal Investigator on the project said that in addition to vaccines, there is an urgent need for safe, effective and affordable covid-19 treatments that specifically target the virus. ‘A great strategy to find potential covid-19 treatments is to repurpose drugs already approved for other diseases, but the current methods to do this are expensive, time consuming and not fit-for-purpose,’ Professor Vasan said.
Meanwhile, in a separate development, the Asian Development Bank has joined with leading public health experts, vaccine regulators and policy makers, to form an advisory group which will provide developing member countries with advice on the quality, safety and effectiveness of covid-19 vaccines.
The first meeting of the Regional Vaccine Advisory Group focused on how to increase the supply of covid-19 vaccines across Asia and the Pacific. Many countries in the region have less than 5% of their populations fully vaccinated.
This Advisory Group will meet on a quarterly basis. Its members include Thailand’s Food and Drugs Administration, Singapore’s Health Sciences Authority, India’s Department of Biotechnology and Australia’s Deputy Secretary for Health Products Regulation.