The antiviral Aplidin, a drug manufactured by the Spanish laboratory PharmaMar, is one hundred times more effective against coronavirus than remdesivir. This has been confirmed by a study published in the scientific magazine Science, according to which this Spanish drug has greater potential than the first drug authorized to treat COVID patients.
The article "Plitidepsin has potent preclinical efficacy against SARS-CoV-2 by targeting the host protein eEF1A" concludes that this drug produces inhibition of the eEF1A protein and demonstrates antiviral potency far superior to other drugs against COVID-19, with lower toxicity.
The trial in two different animals infected with SARS-CoV-2 showed a 99% reduction of viral loads in the lung by treatment with plitidepsin. This drug was then shown to block the protein that coronavirus uses to reproduce and infect other cells. This proves its antiviral efficacy.
The study considers that, based on the data from the study and PharmaMar's clinical trial, "plitidepsin should be widely considered for expanded clinical trials for the treatment of COVID-19". It also offers good prospects in terms of toxicity, which is one of the main drawbacks of antivirals.
The worrying evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic led researchers at US universities to form the QBI Coronavirus Research Group, which for the first time mapped the COVID-19 genome comprehensively and discovered how coronavirus interacts with proteins in human cells.
This group has been crucial in the Spanish drug trial. According to Dr. Nevan J. Krogan, "our work dedicated to studying the host protein response to SARS-CoV-2 infection over the past ten months has led us to a number of drugs and compounds that we consider candidates against COVID-19. The most effective by far has been plitidepsin and it has been a pleasure to work with PharmaMar throughout this time."
This statement is supported by Spanish researcher Adolfo García-Sastre, who emphasizes "the potential of plitidepsin as a therapy for the treatment of COVID-19". The doctor explains that its key is that it targets a protein of human cells and not a protein of the virus. "This means that if it is successful in treating COVID-19, the virus will not be able to become resistant in the face of treatment through mutations."
This clears up the scientists' main concern about new coronavirus variants, such as the British strain. The possibility of virus mutations escaping the antibodies in vaccines or the effectiveness of treatments threatens strategies to combat COVID-19. It would therefore be a giant step forward if PharmaMar's drug is confirmed to be effective against variants as well.
In April 2020, PharmaMar announced the start of a clinical trial with plitidepsin to treat coronavirus patients in Spain. The Spanish Agency of Medicines and Medical Products authorized the start of trials with this drug, which is already marketed to treat multiple myeloma in Australia.
Several clinical trials in Europe and the United States confirmed the drug's safety in humans, which led to the approval of its administration at appropriate doses. The Spanish laboratory and Boryung Pharmaceutical signed a license agreement in 2016 to market the anti-tumor drug of marine origin, plitidepsin, in South Korea.
PharmaMar has exclusive production rights and supplies the finished product to Boryung for commercial use. In October, the company announced that its product is 2,800 times more effective than remdesivir. PharmaMar is now negotiating with various regulatory agencies to start phase 3 trials.