Local research into drug for coronavirus

Li Qian
Trials begin at Shanghai Public Health Clinical Center of arthritis treatment which it is hoped will be efficient in the treatment of novel coronavirus pneumonia.
Li Qian

Shanghai has launched clinical trials to test the efficiency of an anti-rheumatic drug in the treatment of novel coronavirus pneumonia, according to academician Chen Kaixian.

As yet, there is no specific medicine for treating the virus. As new drug development takes time, local scientists have been researching existing drugs in the possible treatment of the novel coronavirus, Chen, of the China Academy of Sciences, said at a city press conference on Thursday.

Hydroxychloroquine, which can decrease the pain and swelling caused by arthritis, has been approved for clinical trials by the Ministry of Science and Technology and the National Health Commission.

Shanghai Pharmaceuticals Holding Co and the Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica under the Chinese Academy of Sciences are carrying out the tests at the Shanghai Public Health Clinical Center.

“Medicines are important weapons against the novel coronavirus, and they are urgently needed. Researchers are racing against the clock to find an effective treatment. But it takes a long time,” Chen said.

Despite the difficulties, Shanghai researchers have made some progress in the drug’s development.

Researchers from ShanghaiTech University have revealed the high-resolution crystal structure of the viral main proteinase (Mpro) of the novel coronavirus. The Mpro, which controls the activities of the coronavirus replication complex, is an attractive target for therapy.

Also, the two P3 laboratories of Fudan University and Shanghai Disease Control and Prevention Center have isolated four new coronavirus strains.

Chen said their work greatly promoted the new drug development.

Local researchers are also working on a vaccine. “It’s time-costing, but we are working on it. We’ve made some progress, but it needs further study,” Chen said.

Shanghai scientists have made contributions to the country’s fight against the novel coronavirus, according to Lu Min, general engineer from the Shanghai Science and Technology Commission.

By February 11, three biotech companies in Shanghai had supplied nucleic acid-based detection kits, enough for more than 2.3 million people. Samples of mRNA vaccine, co-developed by the Shanghai-based Stemirna Therapeutics and Shanghai East Hospital, have been sent to authorities for further tests.

Lu said the commission has published a set of favorable policies to support technology firms, including reducing rents and streamlining administrative approval.

Companies focusing on epidemic study, detection kit development, drug and vaccine development and other key areas have enjoyed financial support from the commission. The first batch of study funds have been granted to six scientific and technological projects.

Since February 3, the Shanghai Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs allowed employers to register for work permits for international staff through online applications to prevent cross-infection. So far, it has dealt with 854 applications.

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