A fund created by Silicon Valley tech entrepreneur and philanthropist Steve Kirsch is supporting research on COVID-19 treatments that can be administered immediately after infection, the Bay Area News Group reports.
Launched two weeks ago with $1 million in seed funding, the COVID-19 Early Treatment Fund (CETF) is targeting early-stage COVID infections in outpatients — as opposed to hospitalized, critically ill patients — with the aim of preventing disease progression to the severe and often fatal stage seen in 20 percent of cases. To that end, CETF will raise funds to support testing of four high-priority drug candidates — existing antiviral drugs identified as potentially having the greatest impact if administered early enough — as well as improve study protocols and develop ways to manufacture drugs that are in short supply. The fund is managed by Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, which will disburse grants recommended by CETF's Scientific Advisory Board.
CETF has raised partial funding for clinical trials of two of the top four drug candidates, Peginterferon lambda, a hepatitis D treatment, and Camostat mesylate, a protease inhibitor used to treat reflux esophagitis and chronic pancreatitis. The fund has awarded $100,000 so far to Aarhus University in Denmark to test Camostat mesylate, which may disrupt the ability of the virus to latch onto and enter lung cells, and is in the process of raising an additional $500,000 in support of clinical trials at Stanford University for Peginterferon lambda, which reactivates the body's virus-impacted interferon production response to fight the disease. CETF also is raising funds to support COVID-related trials of remdesivir, a broad-spectrum antiviral developed by Gilead Sciences, and Toyama Chemical's favipiravir, an antiviral medication currently used to treat influenza in Japan.
"Our hope is to identify a compound that we can give to people who are going home, once they're diagnosed," Upinder Singh, principal investigator and professor of infectious diseases at the Stanford University School of Medicine, told the BANG. "With any infection — whether strep throat, HIV or COVID — earlier treatment is always better."
"Outpatient clinical trials, which test existing antiviral drugs on patients soon after they are infected to find ones that eliminate hospitalization, are the shortest path to end the ongoing lockdowns," CETF states on its website. "This is the most urgent and important research we can do today."
(Image credit: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention via Unsplash)