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Ontario researchers create chemical compounds that can neutralize COVID-19, some variants

Ontario researchers have created chemical compounds that can neutralize SARS-CoV-2, the virus behind the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as several of its variants.

Detailing their findings in a recent paper published in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, researchers at the University of Toronto (UofT) created “D-peptides” that can neutralize the virus and stop infection of cultured human cells.

D-peptides, also known as “mirror-image peptides” are chemical compounds that have properties that allow them to be developed into low-cost antiviral therapeutics, according to a release.

“Our peptides act similar to antibodies that block the virus from entering the cells, but there are certain advantages in that they are cheaper to make [and] they have long stability,” said UofT professor and senior study author Philip Kim on CTV’s Your Morning Tuesday.

Generally, peptides are rapidly broken down inside the body by enzymes that attack harmful bacteria and pathogens. However, mirror peptides are resistant to degradation.

Kim’s team designed several D-peptides that mimic the portion of the SARS-CoV-2 spike that binds to the surface of cells, via the ACE2 receptor. The peptides bind to the receptor before the virus makes contact with the cell, preventing infection.

Two high-security labs in South Korea confirmed the experiment with cultured human cells, and the peptides working against the infection of the Alpha, Beta and Gamma COVID-19 variants.

Kim is confident that the peptides can be formulated to work against the Omicron variant as well.

“Based on the testing we have done over the past week or two, we believe it would be effective against Omicron and updating our compound to be effective against Omicron would be very straight forward,” he said.

Kim said that since D-peptides can be used to fight diseases in highly targeted ways, his technology could be used against Alzheimer’s, cancer or any future coronaviruses.

Kim and his team have partnered with a Boston biotech company called Decoy Therapeutics to commercialize his research, but Kim said there was no reason why it couldn’t be produced in Canada.

“It will be at least two years before it is available to the public,” he said. Top Stories

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