A molecule which Mexican laboratory Silanes has been working with since 2009 could be key to fighting Covid-19.
If effective, the pharmaceutical company will prepare for its approval in November. This week, the Mexican company began patient testing. By next month, they hope to have more participants and a preliminary report on their progress.
Laboratorios Silanes is a company that was founded 77 years ago, which invests 10 % of its annual revenue on research and development.
In an interview with Tec Review, Jorge González, Director of Research and Development, pointed out that the United States Center for Disease Control classified the Metformin Glycinate molecule as a “possibility” for fighting SARS-CoV-2.
What effects does the molecule have?
Almost ten years ago, Laboratorios Silanes began developing different molecules for diabetes drugs. Each of them was studied in depth as part of the research process. Metformin Glycinate belongs to the Metformin family, which has been studied for a very long time and is available on the market. We found that this molecule had a number of different and complementary effects.
One of these was to help decrease the quantity of viruses in patients’ blood. Potentially, it can help eliminate the viral load.
How can this molecule help to eliminate the virus?
When studying viral load and viral cycle, it’s important to note that there are three points at which viruses can be stopped: before getting into a cell, before entering the nucleus, or before coming out. The mechanism that both diabetes and viral replication share is the part when the virus leaves a cell.
The same molecule is responsible for making small vesicles that carry information and many other things in the normal physiology of a cell. The virus takes advantage of this mechanism to create a membrane so it can leave a cell and then infect others.
The virus membrane comes from the human or mammalian cells that it is infecting: in this case it uses human membranes. So, if we can stop that process, the virus can’t get out: it stays inside the cell and destroys itself naturally.
The molecule for treating Covid-19
How was this molecule approved for treating Covid-19?
Other researchers worldwide, including the CDC, studied which molecules increased or decreased in the context of the infection. That is to say, through a natural process.
They found this specific one amongst those molecules. The announcement was, “we’re going to study the 20 molecules that are most affected by the virus.”
Two or three years ago, other researchers in Japan and Europe found that the amount of viruses decreased when this molecule was inhibited. They studied that in the context of Hepatitis C infections and Zika, which are viruses from the same RNA family.
We know that (potentially) it could get support and confirmation from the CDC itself, which says that this molecule is being used. This is what really caught our attention. That’s the reason for this first study, once it had been authorized by the Federal Commission for the Protection of Sanitary Risks (Cofepris) in Mexico and by the regulatory authorities of the hospitals,
We’re going to evaluate it. It hasn’t been evaluated yet, but we’re starting the study this week.
What potential is there for this molecule to stop Covid-19?
I see enormous potential. That’s why we’re studying it. The virus won’t stop here. A new wave will arrive around October and November, when influenza starts to increase around the world. Therefore, we know that there will be new cases and we will still have infections of this nature for the next two years at least.
The virus will continue to circulate until we have a vaccine or more effective treatments. If this becomes an effective treatment, then we will have a solution.
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Medicine vs. vaccine
When could you get a successful approval?
If everything goes well in the tests that begin this week, we will have preliminary results in August and definitive ones by November.
What’s the difference between waiting for a vaccine and having medicine?
They complement each other. It’s like influenza. We have both an influenza vaccine and treatments for it. The vaccine decreases the number of people who get infected. However, there will always need to be a treatment for those who weren’t protected by the vaccine or didn’t receive it. We will always need both vaccines and treatments.
What’s the advantage of a potential treatment being investigated by a Mexican laboratory?
The molecule would be the first useful treatment developed nationally. Obviously, it would be intended for use around the world, but it will have been developed in Mexico, proudly Mexican.
What are the challenges for this research in Mexico?
The biggest challenge will be to get a positive result. It’s a gamble. We’re very confident that the result will be positive. That’s why we’re doing the study. The next thing would be to have enough medicine to be able to provide a real solution.
We don’t have any solutions yet. Preventing one death is a big achievement. Preventing lot of deaths is a huge achievement. Hopefully, we can do it.
What are your recommendations, knowing that we don’t have a treatment or a vaccine right now?
Follow all the protective measures. Hand washing, wearing face masks, trying to stay away from people we know are infected. Keeping a ‘Safe Distance’. That’s what we can do.
Countries that re-opened early are starting to close again because the number of infections has increased. We don’t have any treatments. In the context of influenza, to give an example, we can go out because we have vaccines and antiviral treatments. But for this infection, which is from a similar family, we don’t have antiviral treatments and we don’t have a vaccine.
The only thing we can do is protect ourselves as much as possible. If I take care of myself, I’m taking care of the person next to me, the people around me, my family, my neighbors.