HYDERABAD/MUMBAI, India—The Council of Scientific & Industrial Research–Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (IICT) and pharmaceutical company Cipla have teamed up in an effort to develop an antiviral drug to treat the emerging infectious disease COVID-19.
“Pharma giant Cipla has come forward to invest in resources to develop antiviral drugs through the existing known spectrum of antiviral drugs. Using the scientific knowledge available with IICT and in collaboration with Cipla, we are planning to come out with an effective antiviral drug in the next six months, time,” said Dr. S. Chandrasekhar, director of IICT.
Chandrasekhar noted that Cipla’s chairman, Y.K. Hamied, had contacted IICT with regard to making the active pharma ingredients (APIs) for the chemical compounds favipiravir, remdesivir and baloxavir.
“[The first] two chemical compounds—favipiravir and remdesivir—have already undergone clinical trials and, hence, we will not require much time to make them as the raw materials are readily available. It could take six to 10 weeks to make them. We had proactively started making the molecules in our modern kilo lab with scientists working in two shifts. [The process] to start baloxavir molecule will begin now,” IICT has said.
IICT scientists had already narrowed things down to about 15 compounds that had passed toxicology reports, and the above three are the primary ones being considered right now for COVID-19, at least in terms of this collaboration. As noted by Chandrasekhar, artificial intelligence, deep data mining, and advanced computational and mathematical models made it fairly easy to narrow down to the chemical compounds required.
This collaborative effort will enable Cipla to start the next phase of trials, take up regulatory authority approvals and begin subsequent mass production of the antiviral drugs, according to Chandrasekhar, who also pointed out that several antiviral drugs were discovered in the last few years but were halted after clinical trials due to lack of demand.