Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology online press conference announces the results of preclinical research on COVID-19 medicine

On August 10, 2021, in Hanoi, the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology (VAST) held an online press conference to announce the results of preclinical research on COVID-19 medicine. Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 until now, VAST has actively implemented research on COVID-19 prevention such as: Successful research on the SARS-CoV-2 virus detection kit (March 3, 2020), study on sequencing the entire genome of four strains of SARS-CoV-2 virus (June 1, 2021) as a basis for vaccine research and research on preparations to inhibit SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Implementing the direction of the Prime Minister in Resolution  78/NQ/CP dated 20/07/2021, VAST leaders paid attention to, directed and accelerated the progress of ongoing research. Among those key projects, a group of talented and dedicated scientists from the Institute of Biotechnology linked with Vinh Gia Pharmaceutical Joint Stock Company and Vietnam Pharmaceutical Chemistry Joint Stock Company, with the deep and practical support of the leaders of Ministry of Health and of the Department of Science, Technology and Training, for the first time in Vietnam, has researched and mastered the technology of preparing COVID-19 medicines from Vietnamese herbs. National Biomedical Research Ethics Council and Ministry of Health highly appreciated the results of preclinical studies of the medicine and approved the clinical research protocol on patients infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus. This is the first herbal medicine in Vietnam that is allowed to be tested in clinical trials.

Overview of the online press conference announcing the results of preclinical research on drugs to treat COVID-19 

Initial successful research on antiviral medicine

As soon as the COVID-19 pandemic broke out in our country, Assoc. Prof. Dr.  Le Quang Huan and colleagues at the Institute of Biotechnology under VAST embarked on research on drugs to inhibit the SARS-CoV-2 virus from herbs that have a strong binding effect on molecules involved in the entry and proliferation of SARS-CoV-2 virus. Now, the team has created a traditional medicine preparation that is really promising in the treatment of COVID-19 disease.

The results of preclinical studies show that the product is safe and has the effect of inhibiting the growth of SARS-CoV-2 virus, enhancing immunity in experimental research models. 

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Le Quang Huan said that the team used modern bioinformatics technology (Docking with AutoDock software) to screen the main active ingredients in Vietnamese herbs with strong binding affinity to molecular targets,  molecules involved in the invasion and proliferation of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, combining ancient and modern medical documents and recent international publications to create a combination of herbs containing active ingredients screened to create products with the highest therapeutic effect on the basis of synergistic interactions of active ingredients by different mechanisms: (1) Preventing the virus from sticking to the host cell, making the virus unable to enter the host cell; (2) Inhibiting the ability of the virus to multiply in the cell (for viral particles that have entered the host cell), and; (3) Activating immune cells so that they recognize, block, and eliminate viral particles.

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Le Quang Huan ( middle); Dr. Ha Thi Thanh Huong (left) and her colleagues researched COVID-19 medicine combining information from the medical literature with the latest international publications to screen and select active ingredients with high biopharmaceutical activity from many precious herbs of Vietnam in order to create effective products in the treatment of viral diseases.

VIPDEVIR products

The VIPDERVIR product created by the research team has been evaluated for acute toxicity, semi-permanent toxicity at Department of Pharmacology, Hanoi Medical University, Central Institute for Drug Testing, and its ability to inhibit H5N1 virus at Biotechnology Institute, inhibiting SARS-CoV-2 virus at Central Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology.

Potential traditional COVID-19 medicine: Unexpected results

VIPDERVIR drug has been seriously studied from basic research through methodical research steps, carefully evaluated for safety, stability and ability to inhibit proliferation of influenza A/H5N1 virus and  SARS-CoV-2 virus. With a concentration of 50 mg/mL, VIPDERVIR is capable of inhibiting the growth of SARS-CoV-2 virus at concentrations up to 10 PFU corresponding to Ct=20.5 value when tested by real-time PCR technique (When testing real-time PCR, if the sample has a value between 16<Ct<37, it is a positive sample for SARS-CoV-2, a sample with a value of 37≤Ct<40 is a suspect sample). That means VIPDERVIR has an inhibitory effect on the proliferation of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Photograph of test wells on the formation of scum of SARS-CoV-2 virus on Vero E6 cells when tested with VIPDERVIR

Research shows that the drug is made from many Vietnamese herbs containing active ingredients with valuable biopharmaceutical activities, acting by different mechanisms: (1) Blockade of the Spike-S Protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the ACE2 receptor on the host cell to prevent the contact and entry of the virus into the cell; (2) Inhibition of enzymes involved in the replication of the SARS-CoV-2 virus; (3) Activate the cells of the patient's immune system. These mechanisms will resonate to help prevent and treat COVID-19.

The results of preclinical studies have demonstrated the safety and ability to inhibit the growth of the SARS-CoV-2 virus as well as its immune-enhancing effects. This is an important scientific basis for continuing to study the effectiveness of COVID-19 treatment on patients at the clinical stage.

At the meeting on August 7, 2021, the National Ethics Committee for Biomedical Research - Ministry of Health highly appreciated the results of preclinical studies and approved the clinical research outline on COVID-19 patients with VIPDERVIR. Hopefully, the medicine will have a good response during the testing process and be licensed to treat COVID-19 in time, contributing to the prevention and treatment of the COVID-19 pandemic, an extremely dangerous one with a large number of deaths constantly increasing and depleting many economies globally. 

Speaking at the meeting, Dr. Nguyen Ngo Quang, Deputy Director of the Department of Science, Technology and Training, emphasized that the research results clearly demonstrate the role and coordination of scientists (not only basic research block scientists but also clinical block scientists), manufacturers, sponsors and regulators. From the perspective of the regulatory agency, we will create the best conditions to conduct the most scientific, objective and fastest research to be able to bring the product to the people. Dr. Nguyen Ngo Quang hopes that after clinical research proves the effect of the medicine and the evaluation of the testing agency, it is expected that from now until the end of the year we can consider licensing this product.

The research and development of medicine based on Vietnamese herbal sources, combining the achievements of traditional medicine research with modern research on bioinformatics and biotechnology has shown initiative, creativity and determination of VAST scientists in particular and Vietnamese scientists in general for the task of preventing the COVID-19 pandemic according to the general policy of the Party and the tasks assigned by the Government.

Translated by Phuong Ha
Link to Vietnamese version

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