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Emory-discovered coronavirus drug shows promise in mice, heads to human trials

EIDD-2801 was shown to have effectiveness against both the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 and past ones like SARS and MERS.
Credit: GETTY

ATLANTA — A coronavirus drug originally discovered at Emory has returned promising results in a study on mice, and will soon begin human clinical trials, according to the school.

The study, done in conjunction with researchers at UNC-Chapel Hill and Vanderbilt University Medical Center, was published in the journal Science Translational Medicine

The drug, known as EIDD-2801 was found to prevent severe lung damage and weight loss in mice after an infection. It was effective both against SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 and is currently afflicting countries around the world, and past coronaviruses such as SARS and MERS.

RELATED: Emory-owned drug research nonprofit starts GoFundMe for pill with 'potential to end the new coronavirus'

The drug was found to "significantly reduced lung viral loads and improved pulmonary function in mouse models of both SARS- and MERS-CoV pathogenesis," the study's authors wrote.

According to the study's authors, it could also be useful against future coronaviruses.

"Our data support the continued development of EIDD-2801 as a potent broad spectrum antiviral that could be useful in treating contemporary, newly emerged and emerging coronavirus infections of the future," the study's authors write.

One author, UNC assistant professor of epidemiology Timothy Sheahan, said the drug "holds promise to not only treat COVID-19 patients today, but to treat new coronaviruses that may emerge in the future.” 

EEID-2801 is also promising because it can be taken as a pill, the school said. The study's abstract said that and its effectiveness against multiple coronaviruses "highlight its potential utility as an effective antiviral against SARS-COV-2 (the novel coronavirus) and other future zoonotic (animal-based) coronaviruses."

Emory's non-profit Drug Innovation Ventures at Emory (DRIVE) center announced in February it was looking to raise funding to research the drug.

According to the school, clinical studies of EIDD-2801 can begin in humans later this spring.

"If they are successful, the drug could not only be used to limit the spread of SARS-CoV-2, but also could control future outbreaks of other emerging coronaviruses," a release said.

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