Fanshawe College’s Centre for Research and Innovation has developed a safe, rapid and inexpensive method to identify the effectiveness of potential COVID-19 drug treatments.

Principal investigator Abdulla Mahboob, PhD in biotechnology with experience in the biochemistry of RNA viruses, has developed artificial copies of the SARS-COV-2 virus called ‘replicons’ that can be transferred into mammalian cells. The replicons are non-infectious, containing all the non-structural genes of the virus, but missing the genes allowing the virus to assemble into an infectious agent. This enables testing of new COVID-19 drug therapies against the replicon outside of the more expensive biosafety level-2 laboratories. 

Fanshawe’s replicon has also been developed with two problematic mutations in the current pandemic: one that is associated with higher mortality and another that is resistant against the current treatment remdesivir. Any pharmaceutical company would be able to use the lab-created replicons to rapidly screen a library of potential drug treatments for effectiveness against COVID-19. 

“We are ready to work with a commercial partner who can actively participate in this venture to take our proof-of-concept success from our small college lab to large-scale application,” says Mahboob. “Our development, called the 'Flexicon', can make treatment testing much faster and more accessible to many labs around the world.”

Mahboob’s team is simultaneously working with the National Institutes of Health in the United States to validate a peptide-inhibitor treatment option for COVID-19.

“The faster we can effectively test the latest treatment options, the better our chances of potentially saving lives,” adds Mahboob.

For more information, contact Fanshawe's Centre for Research and Innovation.

The initial laboratory proof-of-concept work was funded with support from the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario) through its contribution to the Niagara College-led Southern Ontario Network for Advanced Manufacturing Innovation (SONAMI).