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Pharmaceuticals

Takeda works on drug to treat COVID complications

Universities collaborate on medicine that might prevent blood vessel inflammation

Researchers at Takeda Pharmaceutical and two Japanese universities hope to bring their drug to market in a few years.

TOKYO -- Takeda Pharmaceutical and two Japanese universities are developing a drug to treat the clogging and inflammation of blood vessels, complications of COVID-19.

The drug uses a mechanism different from those of existing coronavirus drugs, and the developers report that it will likely help prevent the aggravation of COVID-19 symptoms.

The researchers hope to verify the efficacy of the drug in animals by summer. If the drug succeeds at this stage, the team will decide whether to proceed. Commercialization would come in a few years.

When a patient contracts the virus, the infection sets off a reaction that attracts white blood cells to fight off invaders. Some of the "complement" proteins that trigger this reaction, however, cause blood to coagulate, touching off another reaction, one that can lead to inflammation. This is believed to be the cause of serious blood clogging that manifests all over the bodies of some patients.

When a patient contracts the virus, the infection sets off a reaction that attracts white blood cells to fight off invaders. This complement system of plasma proteins, however, causes blood to coagulate, touching off another reaction, one that can lead to inflammation. This is believed to be the cause of serious blood clogging that manifests all over the bodies of some patients.

Takeda is collaborating with the Tokyo Medical and Dental University and the Shiga University of Medical Science. The researchers have discovered an antibody that eliminates complement plasma proteins and are researching how to turn it into a drug. Ordinary antibodies break down in a few days, but the newly discovered one has a structure that makes it hard to break down. Animal testing has shown that it could last a week or two, researchers said.

Drugs originally developed to treat other diseases, such as the antivirus drug remdesivir and the anti-inflammation drug dexamethasone, are now being used to treat COVID-19. Takeda researchers believe the remedy they are working on can enhance treatment when used in a cocktail of drugs, including antivirals.

The joint effort is a project of the Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development.

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