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Vanda Pharmaceuticals Inc. Partners with The University of Illinois To Develop New Antivirals Treating COVID-19

Vanda Pharmaceuticals Inc. has announced a research partnership with the University of Illinois which would identify and focus on developing new antivirals that could potentially treat COVID-19 patients. This partnership will study the screening assay and isolate small fragments that might help the cathepsin-L cleavage of this new SARS-CoV-2 (coronavirus) glycoproteins. These glycoproteins are essentially required by the virus to spread inside the host body.

Michael H. Polymeropoulos is the CEO of Vanda Pharmaceuticals. He shared that “We look forward to the opportunity to collaborate with the University of Illinois College of Medicine to enhance our efforts to bring new treatments to patients.

He explained the work scheme of this new collaboration saying that; “Our collaboration further propels Vanda’s recently launched COVID-19 therapeutics program that includes multiple molecular approaches in therapeutics development. In addition to the cornerstone work that we will conduct with the University regarding cathepsin-L enzyme inhibition, we are also exploring drugs that may block SARS-CoV-2 virus entry at the angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 receptors and the transmembrane protease serine 2 precursor. Included within the therapeutics program is the initiation of ODYSSEY, a study of tradipitant in hospitalized patients with severe COVID-19 pneumonia, which was announced on April 2, 2020, and will start in New York shortly.”

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Many viruses including the new SARS-CoV-2 rely on cathepsin L to survive in the host cells. The glycoproteins in viral structure help to fuse with the host cell’s membrane and for that, they must be primed via protease cleavage.

Some of the previous studies have shown that small size molecules can inhibit the cleavage of these peptides with limited inhibition only. In this new collaborative project with the University of Illinois would give Vanda pharma a chance to expand their research areas. This project would have more experts working on it under a fully equipped set up and all facilities.

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Dr. Bellur S. Prabhakar from The University of Illinois is the lead researcher of this project discussed this new project as; “We can readily deploy the high-throughput screening we had developed to successfully screen for small molecules that specifically inhibited cathepsin-L mediated cleavage of SARS, Ebola, Hendra, and Nipah derived proteins, and entry of the pseudotyped virus into cells,”

He further added that; “Given the similarity between SARS-CoV and COVID-19, we expect to identify potential drug candidates to treat COVID-19 infection. This partnership with Vanda, in collaboration with the UIC’s Center for Drug Discovery and Development, led by Dr. Gregory Thatcher, and High-Throughput Screening Core, led by Dr. Kiira Ratia, will bring together complementary expertise to potentially speed up drug discovery.

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“Drug discovery is a complex process and requires expertise in areas such as virology, drug screening, medicinal chemistry, and drug development,”

Dr. Mark Rosenblatt is the Executive Dean, at the College of Medicine, University of Illinois. He said; “This collaborative effort with Vanda, led by Dr. Prabhakar at the UIC, significantly increases the probability of success.”

Vanda Pharmaceuticals is an established name as an international biopharmaceutical company. It is focused on finding new therapies as per need of the time and improve treatment facilities for patients. The University of Illinois provides the best education and research.

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With more than 30,000 students enrolled in 16 colleges, the university has a state of the art hospital and a fully functional health sciences system. This project would be held at The University of Illinois College of Medicine, which is run under the university and hold a position among the largest medical colleges nationwide.

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