Coronavirus treatment will be through The HBCU


COURTESY OF MEHARRY MEDICAL COLLEGE

Dr. Donald Alcendor, a professor at the historically Black Meharry Medical College, vividly recalls receiving pivotal telephony from the school’s president, Dr. James E.K. Hildreth, on April 6. on it call, Hildreth urged Alcendor to start engaged on a medicament that would help cure early-stage coronavirus patients.

Alcindor put down the phone and got the right to figure. time later, he had a viable drug candidate able to enter the primary stage of testing.

“We’re in trying times here,” Alcindor tells Forbes. “There are a variety of vulnerable populations out there that have basically no answer to this. And, of course, there may well be a second surge of this virus that's more detrimental than the primary.”

That’s especially terrifying for the Black communities being disproportionately tormented by the virus—the demographic that’s top of mind for Alcindor. While he’s “aware that a vaccine is that the ultimate answer,” Alcindor is confident that his drug, which he anticipates will hit the market within the subsequent six months, will help reduce the pandemic’s death rate within the interim.

“We wanted to try to something different than people,” he says. instead of going the route of making another repurposed drug—the most generally known being Gilead Sciences’ Remdesivir—Alcindor and his team at Meharry created a compound that interferes with the virus’ ability to repeat its own DNA. The reagent gets into cells before the virus can, preventing it from hijacking the cell’s reproductive machinery, thus slowing down infection therefore the body’s system can mop it up more easily.

“The reagent sits almost sort of a watchman inside the cell, awaiting the virus to come back in and make sure of it,” says Alcindor. “The cell would be during a state of surveillance.”




This isn’t Alcendor’s first fight against a deadly virus. The work is comparable to what Alcendor accomplished together with his Zika drug candidate, which is pending FDA approval, back in 2016. That Zika drug candidate was ready to reduce virus replication by 95%, and since coronavirus contains a similar genetic disposition to the Zika virus, Alcindor is hopeful that the identical technique is going to be effective.

“With the Zika reagent, we were able to establish a platform,” says Alcindor. He had already identified the actual component in an exceedingly cell that he wanted to manage within the virus replication cycle that first time around. This time, it absolutely was almost adapting the method for the Covid-19 virus.

Should Zika ever become a much bigger threat to U.S. populations, Alcendors plans to be ready, but it’s on no account as urgent as his coronavirus medicament, which is now entering the preliminary stage of animal testing. At this juncture, small rodents will receive high doses of the drug to confirm no poor effects occur. That’s the green light, Alcindor says, to start out entering trials wherein rodents are then infected with the virus and given his medicine as treatment. “Can we are available and protect these animals with reagents from dying?” Alcindor asks. If the solution is yes, meaning the team is prepared to check the drug on non-human primates—the last step before human trials and FDA approval.

Partnerships with the University of California, Davis’ primate center similarly as support from the National Institutes of Health to use its state-of-the-art labs and resources are instrumental in helping Alcendor’s drug advance to those next stages. Once testing wraps up and it’s approved by the FDA, the drug will quite likely be infused via an IV drip.

When asked about the prospect of economic partners, Alcindor says he’ll still be tight-lipped for the nowadays, though he reveals his team is under contract with one particular company that can provide the drug in mass amounts, should it receive FDA approval.

In the meantime, Alcindor is documenting his research on paper. He’s been writing about the health disparities related to Covid-19 deaths among minority populations within us, which is slated to soon be published during a medical journal. Concurrently, Dr. Hildreth has proposed a consortium of top Black medical schools to deal with the disproportionate impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on Black people and communities of color, with a missive of invitation that Congress allocate $5 billion over the following five years to assist fund the initiative.

“HBCUs have traditionally been those institutions that have developed strategies to mitigate and eliminate health disparities among underserved minority populations,” says Alcindor. “Now isn't any different.”