Italy’s main medicines regulator gave the go-ahead on Tuesday for human clinical trials on raloxifene, a generic osteoporosis drug that researchers hope may also help reduce COVID-19 symptoms and make patients less infectious.
The drug was identified as a potential COVID-19 treatment by researchers using supercomputers to screen more than 400,000 molecules for chemical characteristics that might inhibit the virus, focusing on those already approved for use in humans.
Andrea Beccari, from Excalate4Cov, a public-private consortium led by Italy’s Dompé Farmaceutici, said researchers hoped that raloxifene – a generic drug known as a selective oestrogen receptor modulator – would block replication of the virus in cells and thus slow down of the disease.
“It inhibits virus replication, thus preventing the worsening of patients with mild symptoms, and also decreases infectivity, limiting the viral load,” said Marco Allegretti, head of research at Dompé Farmaceutici.
Researchers harnessed the power of the supercomputers to create a three-dimensional structure of 12 coronavirus proteins and conduct simulations to see where the proteins may be attacked by a drug.
“It took a million hours of calculation,” Beccari said, adding that, as research continued, it may be possible to develop second-generation drugs superior to raloxifene.
The trial will involve 450 hospital and home patients at Rome’s Spallanzani Hospital and Humanitas in Milan in the initial phase.