UAB Researchers Identify Drug Candidate for COVID-19 Therapy

Jul 22, 2020 at 09:31 am by steve

The UAB the Hugh Kaul Precision Medicine team is researching COVID-19 therapeutics.

Researchers at the Hugh Kaul Precision Medicine Institute at UAB have zeroed in on Degarelix, an FDA-approved drug for prostate cancer, as a potential therapeutic for SARS-CoV-2 by preventing the virus from entering lung tissue.

With artificial intelligence and computational genomics techniques, the UAB team found evidence suggesting that androgen hormones trigger the production of a protein called TMPRSS2 on lung tissue. This is significant because SARS-CoV-2 relies on TMPRSS2 to enter lung tissues. So they concluded that Degarelix, which is used to reduce androgen hormones in prostate cancer therapy, could be effective.

As a result, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs is conducting a double-blind randomized controlled trial of degarelix (trade name Firmagon) on 200 male veterans who have been hospitalized with COVID-19.

The study is not suitable for female veterans. Existing evidence shows degarelix may have the opposite effect in the female body by increasing TMPRSS2 production, thus worsening the severity of COVID-19 symptoms.

"Degarelix is one of over 200 drug compounds that the Precision Medicine Institute is investigating in UAB labs," Matt Might, PhD, director of the Hugh Kaul Precision Medicine Institute, said. "Many of these either block a target that has been identified in the COVID-19 pathway or manage a symptom of the disease, giving us reason to initiate further tests."

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