Senhwa Biosciences Inc (生華科) yesterday said it has partnered with the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) to evaluate the efficacy of a new drug, dubbed Silmitasertib, for treatment of COVID-19.
The drug, developed by Senhwa Biosciences to treat cancers, such as bile duct cancer, medulloblastoma and pediatric brain tumor, showed promise in human tests to curb the ribonucleic acid (RNA) virus from proliferating.
“With the attribute, the drug is expected to help combat the novel coronavirus. We have not tested the drug on patients with COVID-19 in Taiwan, but the US NIH, looking forward to the drug’s efficacy, will run some trials in the US,” Senhwa Biosciences CEO Soong Tai-sen (宋台生) said by telephone.
The company would offer the drug for free to the US agency during the tests, but it is difficult to forecast when the trials would be completed, Soong said.
The New Taipei City-based firm has no intention of running human trials for COVID-19 treatment in Taiwan, as it has put all of its resources into its clinical trials on cancer treatment, but it is willing to partner with other companies and provide its drugs for free, Soong said.
The University of California San Francisco’s Quantitative Biosciences Institute last month identified 69 drugs or experimental compounds that might be effective in treating COVID-19, including the Silmitasertib, Soong said.
Silmitasertib could promote the formation of street granules by disrupting casein kinase 2, a protein kinase that performs diverse functions related to cell survival, thus preventing viruses from gaining ingredients such as nucleic acids to create a new virus, Soong said.
“Silmitasertib offers two advantages. First, its safety has been proven during our previous tests on about 300 people for cancer treatment. And second, we have about 120kg of Simitasertib in storage in the US, which would be convenient in terms of delivery to the NIH,” he said.
Given that Silmitasertib, unlike other potential new drugs under testing for COVID-19, such as remdesivir, does not directly attack the coronavirus or reduce lung damage, it is more likely to be used as a adjuvant drug, Soong said.
However, whether it would be effective and how it would be used with other medication would be determined by the NIH, Soong said.
Silmitasertib marks the only CK2 inhibitor present in clinical trials, he said.
The drug is undergoing a few human tests, including a Phase II trial for bile duct cancer in Taiwan, the US and South Korea, a Phase II clinical trial for medulloblastoma, sponsored by the National Institute of Health-Cancer Therapy Evaluation Program and the Pediatric Brain Tumor Consortium, and a Phase I study for advanced basal cell carcinoma, it said.