A blood thinner used to treat pancreatitis and kidney disease has been identified as a potential therapy for coronavirus patients, with clinical trials in Japan possibly set to begin within a month, researchers at the University of Tokyo said Wednesday.
The drug, known by the scientific name nafamostat, is an enzyme inhibitor typically used to prevent blood clots. That mechanism could potentially suppress the protein that the virus needs to enter human cells, according to a statement Wednesday from the University of Tokyo’s Institute of Medical Science.
The announcement is the latest in a long list of drugs being touted as a potential treatment for the deadly coronavirus, which has infected 193,000 people worldwide and killed more than 7,800. There are no approved treatments for Covid-19 and no guarantees of one, but a slew of pharmaceutical companies have joined the race to find potential therapies, looking at everything from antiviral molecules to plasma-based treatments using the blood of recovered patients.
Some of the researchers on the project had previously identified nafamostat’s potential to inhibit the virus that caused Middle East Respiratory Syndrome in a 2016 paper. Clinical trials to study nafamostat will be conducted with the National Center for Global Health and Medicine. German researchers had pointed to the potential efficacy of another Japanese drug called camostat, which works in a similar way, according to a paper published March 5.
Nafamostat is a generic that has been approved for use in Japan for pancreatitis and other diseases, suggesting confidence in the drug’s safety and a quick move to clinical trials, the university said.
Shares of Nichi-iko Pharmaceutical Co., which makes nafamostat under the name Futhan, jump 15% on the news, the biggest climb since 2011. The benchmark Topix Index was up less than 1%.
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