ATLANTA—Remdesivir is currently the only antiviral drug approved for the treatment of COVID-19, but must be delivered intravenously. To better reach outpatients early after infection, Gilead Sciences Inc. has partnered with researchers in Georgia State University’s Center for Translational Antiviral Research to test a modified version of remdesivir that can be taken orally.
This modified compound was highly effective in suppressing SARS-CoV-2 replication and transmission in animals when given orally and could be groundbreaking in improving patient access to treatment early after infection, according to a study published online Nov. 5 in Nature Communications.
“Drugs such as this one can be given to outpatients immediately after a positive SARS-CoV-2 test,” said Dr. Richard Plemper, senior author of the study and director of the Center for Translational Antiviral Research. “When taken by mouth, the drug is rapidly converted to the same bioactive substance as intravenous remdesivir, providing all the benefit of FDA-approved remdesivir without its limitation that patients must be hospitalized before they can be started on the drug.”
In the study, the remdesivir variant was tested in ferrets, which the Georgia State researchers have established as a leading model for testing new drug candidates against SARS-CoV-2. The researchers found that this drug was also very potent against recently emerged SARS-CoV-2 variants, effectively blocking spread to uninfected and untreated contact animals that were co-housed with infected and treated ferrets.
“We think that these results in ferrets are highly promising and that orally available antivirals will provide health care workers with a powerful weapon to combat the highly infectious SARS-CoV-2 variants that are active in the community now,” said Dr. Robert Cox, first author of the study and a researcher in Dr. Plemper’s lab in the Institute for Biomedical Sciences.
This research on the compound, GS-621763, emerged from a sponsored research agreement between Georgia State University and Gilead Sciences Inc. The study was funded by Gilead Sciences Inc. and public health service grants from the National Institutes of Health/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to Georgia State University.
Co-authors of the study include R.M. Cox, J.D. Wolf, C.M. Lieber, J. Sourimant and R.K. Plemper at Georgia State University; M.J. Lin and Alexander L. Greninger at the University of Washington; D. Babusis, V. DuPont, J. Chan, K.T. Barrett, D. Lye, R. Kalla, K. Chun, R.L. Mackman, T. Cihlar and J.P. Bilello at Gilead Sciences Inc; and C. Ye and L. Martinez-Sobrido at the Texas Biomedical Research Institute.
Postdoctoral Fellow in Richard Plemper’s lab
Institute for Biomedical Sciences