EASTON — Two Maryland companies are assisting with the development of a unique preventative medicine that could inhibit the reproduction of the novel coronavirus, and the over-the-counter product could roll out before the end of the year.
The development is confidential and still under trial, but the final stages are nearing completion, Easton-based F3 Tech wrote in a press release.
“While we cannot provide details about the proposed solution, the company is beginning prototype development with collaborators from the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins University,” Mike Thielke, executive director of F3 Tech, said in a statement.
F3 Tech primarily develops technology in the agriculture, energy, environmental and supply chain sectors, but has since expanded its reach in the past year to assist companies with research. Since May, it has been working with a private company — which requested to remain confidential in this story because of an ongoing research trial — to develop the preventative medicine.
F3 Tech has helped with research, manufacturing, distribution and business advice for the Baltimore-based company. The project is privately funded by the companies, although Johns Hopkins and the University of Maryland have been assisting as well.
Nicole Duran, a public health adviser for the private company, said the medicine is low-risk and similar to immune support tablets such as Airborne or the contraception pill Plan B as far as easy-to-take prevention drugs. The results are promising so far, but further testing is needed.
“We have it in its consumer form, and we’re just specifically testing it against COVID-19 now,” she said.
The proactive medicine stops the novel coronavirus, known as SARS-coV-2, from entering cells and causing the disease COVID-19. The virus has protein spikes around it that help it bind and slip into cells, allowing it to reproduce in a frenzy. After taking this preventative medicine, a “block inhibitor” is created that competes against the virus.
“If you think of it like a competition, the product is running to block the virus from grabbing onto the cells,” Duran said.
The medicine still needs approval from the FDA before its release to the public.
Currently, there are no approved drugs from the FDA, although the drug Remdesivir from Gilead Sciences is considered promising, at least at easing COVID-19’s severity in some patients.
Still, no drug is being developed like this, with a focus on proactive prevention, Duran said. People would take this drug before they have the disease.
“A lot of the treatments we have are reactive, it’s after you’re infected or showing extreme symptoms,” she said. “We were frustrated — I think people need something cheap and that they can take easily and not worry about side-effects. It was the idea of, ‘What’s proactive instead of reactive?’”
While she anticipates no issues, information on its specific cost, and potential side effects of the medicine, are not available at the moment, Duran said.
If the medicine wins FDA approval the rollout will be slow at first, with a focus on supplying the most vulnerable populations first: school children, first responders and the elderly.
“Those high-risk carriers are our main targets, we want to make sure they get it first,” she said. “But we should be able to distribute it nationally pretty fast.”