Fil-Am biotech CEO unveils possible 'novel treatment' vs COVID-19

Bettina Magsaysay, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 05 2020 11:07 PM

MANILA - As experts around the world are racing to find a vaccine against the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), one Filipino scientist is taking a different approach towards treating the contagious disease.

Filipino-American Rogelio "Vonz" Santos Jr., CEO of biotech firm Nucision, said he has developed a novel treatment called "Relivir" against COVID-19.

Neither a vaccine nor an antibody treatment, Relivir sits somewhere in the middle. It works by delivering a "programmable" enzyme that "cuts" the RNA of the SARS-CoV-2, essentially removing the virus' ability to replicate and multiply within a host's body, he said.

When the virus can no longer replicate, it can no longer infect new cells thereby stopping its severe effects on the human body.

"What that means, is that we are able to directly address not just the elimination of the virus but the replication rate," Santos said.

He added, "The replication rate is very important to address because if we don't address it at its source no matter how many treatments you put in the blood stream it will end up continuing to grow. You are constantly in a battle."

Most scientists focus on treating COVID-19 by building immunity either through a vaccine or an antibody treatment or repurposing existing antiviral drugs.

This treatment can be delivered intravenously or through inhaler. Nucision researchers believed that this could be given at any stage of the infection.

In a couple of weeks, Santos said they should be able to wrap up the first batch of their testing. 

"We will then initiate and engage in animal studies and toxicity testing. We have been working with the Philippine agencies there to prepare for human clinical trials. This is not a vaccine, this is not an antibody and it does not really rely on the immune response," he said.

Santos said they had been in talks with the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) and other hospitals for possible clinical trials.

For now, there is no specific date when the product will be available on the market. He said this would depend on regulatory approval. 

But Santos is encouraged that there is a priority for these kinds of projects. 

"If all things are successful then we can look at 2021 as a potential time frame for either early release through ;compassionate use,' clinical trials and if full commercial capacity has been approved, our next challenge will be to make sure we have enough manufacturing and distribution partners," he said.