A marine animal from Ibiza, key to the promising Spanish antiviral against COVID-19


by Esteban Tejedor

Posted on February 14, 2021

A marine animal from Ibiza, key to the promising Spanish antiviral against COVID-19

The Spanish company PharmaMar has created and developed an antiviral drug, called plitidepsin, that has been shown to be capable of reducing viral loads caused by coronavirus by 99%, something that has been achieved so far in the lungs of treated animals.

The company is actually already immersed in clinical trials and is negotiating the beginning of phase III.

To have been able to develop plitidepsin, PharmaMar has used a marine animal called ascidiacea, belonging to the subphylum urochordata. The necessary compound is extracted from this marine tulip, and is distributed throughout the planet.

It can usually be found in rocks or shells, where it remains fixed. It is estimated that there are about 2,300 species and of different types. For this specific case, for the creation of the antiviral, the marine organism used was the sea squirt Aplidium albicans, found in a bay of the Balearic Islands. From it, everything is obtained by synthesis in a laboratory.

The trade name of plitidepsin is Aplidin, and it has already been approved by the Australian regulatory agency for the oncological treatment of multiple myeloma. To fight against the coronavirus, what it does is to block the protein eEF1A, present in human cells, which is used by the virus to reproduce by the body and go to more cells.

This drug has been shown to have strong antiviral potency, achieving a reduction in viral replication in the animals with which it has been tested and through in vitro studies.

It has also been tested in humans in phase II (out of four) clinical trials. In October 2020, it was reported that for the time being the trials had achieved the primary safety objective and the secondary efficacy objective, that is, that the safety of the treatment is very good and that it acts against the coronavirus.

It is now in negotiations with the health authorities of Spain and the United Kingdom, to be able to complete the design of phase III clinical trials with high participation of patients and receive their collaboration.

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