Skip to main content
Move the World.
Treatment for Coronavirus

Lead Image © Brostock / Adobe Stock

The oral antiviral drug EIDD-2801 has emerged as a promising treatment for coronavirus.

Researchers at biotech company Ridgeback Biotherapeutics and DRIVE (a nonprofit based at Emory University) had developed EIDD-2801 as a potential flu treatment when the COVID-19 outbreak began.

Based on what they already knew about the drug — that it showed antiviral activity against other coronaviruses — they quickly decided to pivot their research to the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.

"With EIDD-2801 close to entering clinical trials for influenza and its activity against the SARS and MERS coronaviruses, we immediately recognized that EIDD-2801 had the potential for treating COVID-19," DRIVE CEO George Painter said in March.

A New Treatment for Coronavirus

With the help of researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Vanderbilt University Medical Center, the team set out to study EIDD-2801's efficacy against SARS-CoV-2.

On April 6, they published the results of that study in the journal Science Translational Medicine — and they're incredibly promising.

"EIDD-2801 holds promise to not only treat COVID-19, but new coronaviruses in the future."

Timothy Sheahan

When introduced to cultured human lung cells infected with SARS-CoV-2, EIDD-2801 hindered the virus's ability to replicate itself.

The team also tested the drug's efficacy in mice infected with two similar coronaviruses: SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV.

When administered 12 or 24 hours after infection, the antiviral reduced the amount of the virus in the animal's lungs and lessened the degree of their lung damage and weight loss.

When administered prior to infection, EIDD-2801 prevented severe lung damage in the mice.

That suggests that the drug could be useful not only as a treatment for coronavirus, but as an easy-to-administer prophylactic — if an outbreak occurred in a nursing home, for example, the residents could take the antiviral medication as a preventative measure.

Testing the Antiviral in Humans

Now that EIDD-2801 has proven its efficacy as a treatment for coronavirus in the lab, it's time to see how the drug fares against SARS-CoV-2 in humans.

The same day the team published its paper, Ridgeback Biotherapeutics and DRIVE announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had given them the green light to begin human testing of the antiviral drug.

"FDA's prompt approval of our (application) allows us to initiate human testing for EIDD-2801 as quickly as possible," Painter said in a press release. "We are grateful to our collaborators for helping us to assemble this application quickly, and to the FDA for expediting the process."

The group expects to begin those trials later this spring, and depending on the results, EIDD-2801 might not only provide the world with a much-needed treatment for coronavirus, but other viruses as well.

"With three novel human coronaviruses emerging in the past 20 years, it is likely that we will continue to see more," Timothy Sheahan, one of the study's authors, said in a news release. "EIDD-2801 holds promise to not only treat COVID-19 patients today, but to treat new coronaviruses that may emerge in the future."

Up Next

If you want to understand a problem, talk to the people working on solutions. Join us as we meet the people and explore the ideas on the frontlines of an unprecedented global response.

Computer Science
Crowdsourcing the Seed for Coronavirus Antiviral Medications
antiviral medications
Computer Science
Crowdsourcing the Seed for Coronavirus Antiviral Medications
Foldit players are solving a protein structure puzzle that could help kickstart coronavirus antiviral medications.

Foldit players are solving a protein structure puzzle that could help kickstart coronavirus antiviral medications.

Public Health
Big Tobacco Announces "Breakthrough" in Plant-Based Coronavirus Vaccine
Plant-Based Coronavirus Vaccine
Public Health
Big Tobacco Announces "Breakthrough" in Plant-Based Coronavirus Vaccine
A plant-based coronavirus vaccine developed by a subsidiary of British American Tobacco is now undergoing pre-clinical testing.

A plant-based coronavirus vaccine developed by a subsidiary of British American Tobacco is now undergoing pre-clinical testing.

Public Health
Blood Plasma From Coronavirus Survivors Could Save Lives
coronavirus survivors
Public Health
Blood Plasma From Coronavirus Survivors Could Save Lives
A drug company is using the blood plasma of coronavirus survivors to develop a treatment for those still battling the disease.

A drug company is using the blood plasma of coronavirus survivors to develop a treatment for those still battling the disease.

Public Health
New Coronavirus Vaccine Candidate Creates Antibodies in Mice
New Coronavirus Vaccine
Public Health
New Coronavirus Vaccine Candidate Creates Antibodies in Mice
A new coronavirus vaccine candidate that delivers inoculation via a microneedle patch has shown promise in a peer-reviewed mouse study.

A new coronavirus vaccine candidate that delivers inoculation via a microneedle patch has shown promise in a peer-reviewed mouse study.

Public Health
Here Is Every Potential Coronavirus Treatment and Vaccine
coronavirus treatment
Public Health
Here Is Every Potential Coronavirus Treatment and Vaccine
Across the globe, researchers are scrambling to find a coronavirus treatment or vaccine that could bring the COVID-19 outbreak to a swift end.

Across the globe, researchers are scrambling to find a coronavirus treatment or vaccine that could bring the COVID-19 outbreak to a swift end.

Public Health
FDA to Begin Testing Chloroquine as Coronavirus Treatment
Chloroquine
Public Health
FDA to Begin Testing Chloroquine as Coronavirus Treatment
The FDA has announced plans to begin testing chloroquine, an anti-malaria drug, as a potential treatment for the novel coronavirus behind COVID-19.

The FDA has announced plans to begin testing chloroquine, an anti-malaria drug, as a potential treatment for the novel coronavirus behind COVID-19.

Public Health
How to Make 100 Million Doses of Coronavirus Vaccine in a Year
coronavirus vaccine
Public Health
How to Make 100 Million Doses of Coronavirus Vaccine in a Year
Creating a new vaccine is slow and expensive. One biotech firm thinks a “plug-and-play” vaccine could change that.

Creating a new vaccine is slow and expensive. One biotech firm thinks a “plug-and-play” vaccine could change that.

Public Health
Flu Drug May Be an Effective New Coronavirus Treatment
new coronavirus treatment
Public Health
Flu Drug May Be an Effective New Coronavirus Treatment
The Japanese flu drug favipiravir is an effective and safe new coronavirus treatment, Chinese officials claim after testing it on 340 patients.

The Japanese flu drug favipiravir is an effective and safe new coronavirus treatment, Chinese officials claim after testing it on 340 patients.

Public Health
Bill Gates Is Spending Billions to Produce 7 Coronavirus Vaccines
coronavirus vaccines
Public Health
Bill Gates Is Spending Billions to Produce 7 Coronavirus Vaccines
The Gates Foundation is building factories to manufacture seven promising coronavirus vaccines to prepare for mass production if any prove effective.

The Gates Foundation is building factories to manufacture seven promising coronavirus vaccines to prepare for mass production if any prove effective.