Kansas State University researchers license technology for coronavirus drug

Posted at 12:10 PM, Mar 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-03 19:55:05-05

MANHATTAN, Kan. — Kansas State University has licensed a technology that researchers believe could lead to an antiviral drug for coronavirus treatment.

This is possible due to a new license agreement between K-State and Cocrystal Pharma Inc., a clinical stage biotechnology company that discovers and develops antiviral therapeutics for the treatment of norovirus and coronavirus infections.

Researchers said antiviral drugs are not yet available for human noroviruses or coronaviruses, which include SARS, MERS and COVID-19.

Dr. Kyeong-Ok Chang, virologist for the K-State College of Veterinary Medicine, has worked with other chemists and biologists for more than 10 years to develop antiviral drugs.

He said it took about five years to develop an antiviral drug for coronavirus in cats, but unlike human cases, clinical trials for cats were much easier.

"The regulation is much less strict, and less expensive so that's why we were able to come this far quickly," Chang said.

Chang said developing a cure for humans will be a long process since creating an antiviral drug can take years. However, the work he and others have done in the past gives them an advantage.

"It's very early stages for COVID-19, but based on what we have done with feline coronavirus and MERS coronavirus, we are confident that we are on the right track in tackling that antiviral drug development," Chang said.

K-State and Cocrystal Pharma Inc. recently reached a license agreement that could take their work to the next level. The company will work to research and develop Chang's findings even more.

He doesn't expect to have a cure in the near future, but he said this is a step in the right direction.

"The process is very slow, but we are confident that we are on the right track," Chang said.