French scientists unveil nasal spray 'Covid solution'

Experts say treatment would cost less than €1milion to develop as a complement to vaccination through next phase of testing

31 August 2020
By Jane Hanks

A team of French researchers say they have come up with an anti-Covid solution which is an alternative to a vaccination and which could be ready for use – possibly in the form of a nasal spray – by the end of the year.

“We have done our job as scientists to show this is a method which can successfully block pulmonary cells infection by coronavirus,” Professor Philippe Karoyan, from the Laboratoire des Biomolécules (LBM) at the Sorbonne Univeristy in Paris, told Connexion.

“Now it is up to governments and/or pharmaceutical companies to put money into it to take it to the next level of testing. It could be applied by nasal spray.

“We think it would take less than €1million to get it ready. I have already been contacted by a UK pharmaceutical company this morning, interested in the project.”

The research team, headed by Professor Karoyan, has spent 18 hours a day, every day, for the past five months working on this alternative remedy.

The scientists’ report on the Covid nasal spray project is available as a preprint here. It has been submitted for publication in official scientific journals.

The researchers are so confident in it they have already taken out a patent on their discovery.

Professor Karoyan explains how it works in terms of a lock and key.

He says coronavirus gets into the body by attaching itself to the membrane of a cell via one of the proteins around the cell, ACE2. This is what he refers to as the lock allowing entry into the cell.

Coronavirus has a “key”, called the protein Spike which opens the lock. The team of researchers has created a peptide, made up of natural amino acids which lures the virus to it by mimicking the ACE2 lock, and so prevents it from entering into human cells.

The scientists designed 160 false “locks” and developed 25 of them. They discovered three able to block the coronavirus “key” with a high level of efficiency. They have tested it on pulmonary cells and found it has worked without any toxic reaction to humans.

“There are other similar lines of research in the world,” Professor Karoyan said, “and I cannot say that ours is better or worse, but our concept around ACE2 mimicking peptides is different from other published ideas.

“I’m convinced it could work at a reasonable price as an alternative or a complement to a vaccination and other strategies. I am proud of what we have accomplished with our meagre academic resources and I believe this could now be developed very, very quickly.”

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