Bilkent University Faculty Member Asst. Prof. Dr. Şeker stated that they are carrying out projects to develop a protein to block the protein that allows the new type of coronavirus to attach to human cells.
Bilkent University Faculty Member Asst. Prof. Dr. Urartu Şeker has stated that they are carrying out a project to develop novel proteins to block the binding of the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) to to human cells. In his statement, Dr. Şeker has mentioned that the design of two different proteins has been completed and they are about to move on to the experimental production stage. Completion of the study including the preclinical stages is expected to finalize within 6-9 months. This new generation drug is anticipated to be effective and can be given to infected patients.
The Minister of Industry and Technology, Mustafa Varank, has announced that they created a sub-platform to support vaccine and drug development projects against COVID-19, under the coordination of the Institute of Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, which is affiliated with the TÜBİTAK Marmara Research Center.
In this context, the ongoing projects in Turkey, which can be converted to focus on specifically against this virus or projects with an innovative approach that can be finalized quickly were identified and supporting processes of these projects were started.
In line with the realization of the severity of the epidemic, Dr. Şeker said that they created a sub-study group within the research group and started to discuss and prepare a research plan specifically for COVID-19 studies in the early February 2020.
Dr. Şeker has stated that they are planning to use a protein that was originally designed and produced to use against the virus that causes Crimean–Congo hemorrhagic fever (CCHF), against SARS-CoV-2 with collaboration with the Director of Ankara University Biotechnology Institute, Prof. Dr. Aykut Özkul.
Dr. Şeker gave the following information about the stage reached in the study:
“We are working on the development of proteins that will prevent the coronavirus from attaching to the surface of the human cells. This way the spread of virus particles in the body will be prevented. In this context, the design of two different proteins was completed quickly thanks to the genetic engineering and synthetic biology experience of our research group. Currently, we are moving on to the experimental production stage. After this stage is completed, Professor. Dr. Özkul and his team will begin testing the protein against the virus that causes COVID-19. After completing all the preliminary clinical studies, we aim to start phase studies in humans.”
Emphasizing that they are working continuously to finalize the studies as soon as possible, Şeker said:
“We plan to complete the study within 6-9 months, including preclinical stages. As a result, we are working day and night to complete the process quickly and move forward. Thus, we anticipate that we will have an effective new generation drug that can be given to infected patients. Considering that COVID-19 epidemic is expected to continue, it is clear that we will need an enduring drug. For this reason, we want to develop a drug against the disease in the medium and long term. ”
Noting that there is currently no vaccine or drug working against COVID-19, Dr. Şeker has explained that the ongoing drug trials are at early stages and as the development method these trials are using the drugs developed against other viruses on COVID-19 cases.
Stating that the efficacy of drugs developed for diabetes and malaria for COVID-19 has been tested and a clear scientific conclusion has not been reached yet, Dr. Şeker continued:
“The preliminary results obtained here do not provide sufficient evidence to support the use of this drug. Many side effects of the drug were also explained in detail by experts. Therefore, it is given only to a certain group of patients, under the supervision of a doctor. Furthermore, drugs that have been used against other viral agents are also being tested experimentally.”
Emphasizing that its experimental use does not mean that the drug has a general effectiveness, Dr. Şeker said that based on the data which works only in some patient groups , it is wrong and harmful to present it as a definitive solution . Şeker pointed out that scientific research processes should proceed carefully and cautiously and warned that only statements of experts should be taken into consideration.
Noting that the basis of reducing the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak is minimizing the interaction with other people, Şeker concluded:
“We need to do more tests to ensure social isolation. In addition to the RT-PCR tests currently being carried out, serological tests in which antibodies produced against the virus are detected should be more widespread. In this way, the isolation of patients who do not show symptoms can also be accomplished.”