A Tampa Bay biotechnology company has come up with a pre-clinical drug treatment that could work on coronavirus–but hasn’t yet been tested.
Dr. Sunanda Singh is a plastic surgeon who has several offices around the Bay Area with his wife, Dr. Anjali Singh, a dermatologist.
But his passion–and the focus of his MD-PhD study at University of Chicago–is in cancer immunology.
His ‘side project’ is a virtual company, Singh Biotechnology, that does research and contracts out clinical testing.
He has patented a drug technology, SBT-100, a miniature antibody that binds to a naturally-occurring protein, STAT3, that is responsible for entering a cell’s nucleus and “turning on” many of the enzymes that help spread of cancers and viruses in the body.
“The simplest way to think of cancer is runaway DNA replication,” Dr. Singh said in a sit-down interview in his Brooksville office. “Cancer DNA wants to reproduce, reproduce, reproduce–and it uses a specific set of enzymes to do that. Many of these enzymes are targets of STAT3. So what is a virus? It’s a small piece of DNA or RNA doing the same thing. And it uses, in some cases, some of the same enzymes STAT3 turns on. So by turning off STAT3, we inhibit the virus’s ability to hijack our cell’s enzymes to reproduce itself.”
Singh isn’t sure whether COVID-19 uses STAT3 in the same way, because he has not been able to test it.
“One of the problems is there are very few laboratories that are designated for these very dangerous pathogens, not just viruses but bacteria and other pathogens,” said Dr. Singh. “So there’s a long queue to get one’s work done. We’re competing with scientists, national labs, different companies… I know several years ago we spoke to the NIH and the wait was 18 months to get it tested in animals. Right now, with the situation being so serious, there may be more effort and resources available where we could team up with a government agency or pharmaceutical company to get it tested.”
If COVID-19 does use STAT3, then Singh says SBT-100 may be able to be used as a treatment immediately. If not, he says he could develop a treatment that is specific to the virus, as he did several years ago for Ebola.
“We know the Ebola protein inhibits Ebola virus replication by about 50% within two days,” said Dr. Singh. “SBT-100 would inhibit Ebola replication by about 90% within two days.”
Despite the efficacy, Dr. Singh’s drug treatment is still in pre-clinical trials for 11 different types of cancers.
Watch the full interview with Dr. Singh here: