In an unprecedented race against time, scientists around the world are investigating possible therapies against Covid-19.
In this context, the Cnr Institute of Biophysics (Ibf – Milan area) is engaged in the search for a drug against Coronavirus, even in the absence of dedicated funding. In fact, a collaboration with the International Center of Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB of Trieste) has been activated to test directly on Covid-19 all the molecules characterized by Ibf researchers in Milan.
Since 2005, Eloise Mastrangelo and Mario Milani, leaders of the structural biology group at the Cnr-Ibf in Milan, have dedicated themselves to the characterization and inhibition of RNA viruses replicative mechanism through structural and functional studies on the proteins involved in viral replication. These studies have been enriched by collaborations with renowned European virological laboratories.
Their more than ten-year activity has produced several dozen publications in scientific journals relevant in the virological field, as well as prizes and convocations to national and international conferences.
Among the results of the Ibf research team, the discovery of the new antiviral activity of ivermectin, a pesticide already used in the treatment of some serious tropical diseases, is noteworthy. The invention by Eloise Mastrangelo and Mario Milani took place in 2009 thanks to a long and in-depth computational and experimental study on some viral proteins, and was therefore patented. However, despite the international interest in the discovery, the Italian research team lacked further funding to carry on the patent and deepen the study of ivermectin and new antivirals. Fortunately, the international scientific community has been interested in the antiviral properties of ivermectin, characterizing its inhibitory activity on the replication of other viruses, such as the recent Zika virus, influenza and HIV. A few days ago a group of Australian researchers published the ability of ivermectin to eliminate Covid-19 within 48 hours of infection on human cells. The pesticide, repurposed as antiviral in 2009, could therefore represent a new weapon against the Coronavirus.