Clinical trials begin for COVID-19 oral therapeutics discovered using LSU-developed AI
BATON ROUGE – According to a Friday morning news release from Louisiana State University, Skymount Medical has partnered with Riverside University Health System, or RUHS, Medical Center to conduct the first U.S. clinical trial on the efficacy of COVID-19 oral therapeutics discovered by LSU researchers using artificial intelligence.
"We have a safe and effective pinworm drug that's very well known, and the other is a cancer drug that's one of the safest cancer drugs on the market that's generic," said Chris Galliano, Chief Technology Officer and Co-inventor of Skymount Medical.
The testing will be conducted through RUHS Medical Center’s Comparative Effectiveness & Clinical Outcomes Research Center in Moreno Valley. It will evaluate the combined effects of an already FDA-approved cancer medication and an already FDA-approved anti-parasitic agent (both approved for humans) on patients with mild-to-moderate COVID-19 symptoms that do not require hospitalization.
Similar studies are already underway in Europe. Although the outcomes for patients have yet to be revealed, predictive studies leveraged by LSU’s AI technology and early cell and animal studies conducted by the Illinois Institute of Technology have already shown the new drug combination up to 97 percent effective in reducing the amount of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
The study will be a double-blind intervention conducted in an outpatient setting, comparing the two-drug combination to a placebo.
The goal of the study is to determine the impact this combination therapy will have on decreasing the length and severity of symptoms without negative side effects.
The study will also evaluate if the combination drug can help decrease the need for hospitalizations.
Dr. Weng, an infectious disease physician at RUHS Medical Center, will inform patients diagnosed with COVID-19 about the study and invite them to participate. Patients will be screened, enrolled, and have subsequent follow-up visits in the RUHS Emergency Department.
“Unfortunately, California has its fair share of COVID-19 cases,” Dr. Weng said. “The one silver lining in this is that the sample size at our hospital is substantial enough to produce valuable data when evaluating the safety and efficacy of this drug combination. This is a pilot study and 100 percent voluntary. The safety of our patients is paramount, and we will stay in constant contact with those choosing to participate to ensure their health and well-being.”
The researchers are hopeful the new therapeutic also will prevent lingering symptoms, which some people experience following COVID-19.
“The drug combination may reduce long-haul syndrome, the long-term consequences some patients report even after recovering from COVID-19, such as mental health issues and damage to organs,” Wasan said.
DeepDrug, the AI platform that helped discover the oral therapeutic, was created by an interdisciplinary team of LSU researchers led by Supratik Mukhopadhyay, associate professor in the LSU Division of Computer Science and Engineering. DeepDrug uses a next-generation AI capability that reduces the time and cost of drug discovery by up to 90 percent.
“It’s very gratifying to see this medication enter into the human study phase,” Mukhopadhyay said. “The fact that we are at this stage so quickly is due to Skymount Medical’s vast professional medical network and our DeepDrug platform, which was able to identify this particular combination of medications in a fraction of the time that traditional research takes.”
"Once the human trial succeeds, we're hoping to get this pill approved by the FDA for public consumption. At that point, it will be available to the public," Mukhopadhyay said.