LSU scientists partner with Canadian-based lab to produce COVID-19 treatment

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BATON ROUGE - A new treatment to help reduce COVID-19 symptoms is being developed in our own backyard.

LSU's DeepDrug team and Canadian-based Skymount Medical teamed up in April 2020 to begin testing a new drug through artificial intelligence. The group started their test on 80 mice, which showed a 97% effectiveness.

"They said that the mice, it showed efficacy in mice. The mice are recovering. There's no toxicity... And especially the weight is increasing because, with COVID, you also lose weight," said Dr. Supratik Mukhopadhyay, associate professor in the LSU Department of Computer Science.

After promising news from animal tests, plans for human testing began this week in Europe. Those consist of 200 people overseas and then 60 people in California.

The compounds associated with the drug SM-19 have already been FDA-approved and used to treat other conditions.

"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.

If approved by the FDA, SM-19 would be an oral drug taken twice a day for 10 days and would cost about $200. The drug would be used primarily in unvaccinated people with COVID-19 symptoms and the veteran population.

They believe the testing would be complete this year.

"A couple of months. We should be getting data by early September," Dr. Mukhopadhyay said.

"SM-19 can be made available immediately if regulators give it emergency use. We have animal data that shows it's not toxic. The next step is to prove it in humans, to show that it's non-toxic and highly effective. Once we get past that mark, we have to make our case to the FDA for emergency use to say that these two drugs, in combination, can be given with no toxicity," Galliano said.

Once approved for adults, pediatric trials will begin.


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