Thanks to Cats, One Promising Coronavirus Treatment is Already in Development

the GC376 story
For medical professionals, coronavirus is not new

For many of us, “coronavirus” was an unfamiliar word before the COVID-19 pandemic, but doctors have been dealing with coronaviruses for decades. Coronaviruses were the cause of SARS and MERS infections in humans and veterinarians regularly treat cats, dogs, pigs, and cattle for diseases caused by various strains of the virus.

There are currently no approved treatments for coronaviruses in animals.

After years of study, veterinarians know that, in animals, the majority of coronaviruses reproduce in the gastrointestinal tract and usually cause only mild intestinal issues that resolve without medical intervention.

However, one disease, feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), is often fatal. FIP occurs when an intestinal coronavirus mutates and infects white blood cells. When this happens, the virus (FIPV) leaves the intestine and travels throughout the body. In many cases, a strong immune system response eliminates FIPV before an infected cat experiences any symptoms. But, sadly, if clinical signs of FIP appear, there’s nothing vets can do. The disease progresses rapidly and is nearly 100% fatal. FIP is the leading cause of death in kittens and young cats.

Anivive’s search for an FIP cure

Anivive’s mission is to discover and develop medicines for devastating pet diseases that have no approved treatments.

Smart, AI-powered software, AniviveSELECT, accelerates the process by analyzing and learning from a massive collection of drug data compiled from over 300 sources. For FIP, we were searching for an antiviral drug that predictive analytics suggested could inhibit progression of the virus.

That’s when we discovered GC376.

Like all coronaviruses, FIPV contains an enzyme responsible for replication of the virus. GC376, a broad-spectrum antiviral medication, successfully halts the replication process. We spent a year developing the drug. Safety and dose were first determined in an experimental model and then field tests were conducted at the University of California, Davis.

The investigative process revealed that GC376 resulted in a reversal of symptoms in infected cats within 48 hours. No significant side effects were reported, and good health was retained following discontinuation of therapy especially in cats with the “wet” form of FIP.

Currently, our final formulation is being optimized for additional studies.

Smokey participated in the GC376 drug trial more than three years ago. Before and after photos capture his dramatic reversal of weight loss, and we’re happy to report that Smokey remains healthy today.

Smokey Before Treatment
Smokey After Treatment
Smokey Before and After GC376 Treatment

In the fight against COVID-19 a recent paper highlighted the efficacy of GC376 in an animal model of SARS-CoV-2 (Postinfection treatment with a protease inhibitor increases survival of mice with a fatal SARS-CoV-2 infection) showing that GC376 is highly active in mice infected with SARS-CoV-2. This adds to growing body of scientific evidence highlighting the activity of GC376 against many human and animal coronaviruses.

Why we’re thanking our cats right now

At Anivive, we hope to leverage existing animal work to accelerate the availability of effective COVID-19 therapeutics for humans.

With completed animal trials and a wealth of drug data, we have a nice jumpstart on the process. Six leading research universities are participating in the evaluation of GC376 to treat SARS-CoV-2.

Results are promising. GC376 has been found to be:

  • Stable in human plasma, remaining therapeutically active
  • Highly active against SARS-CoV-2 in clinically relevant doses
    • Blocks replication of SARS-CoV-2 virus
    • Prevents virus from killing infected cells
    • Effective in treating SARS-CoV-2 in animal models infected with the virus
  • A pan-coronaviral inhibitor, with activity against at least 15 coronaviruses

Additional studies are planned. Following our pre-IND meeting the FDA we have been involved in discussions with governmental funding agencies to continue to advance GC376 towards human clinical trials for COVID-19 as well as a future viral pandemics.

Anivive Lifesciences has licensed GC376 and is working to obtain FDA approval for the treatment of FIP in cats, while simultaneously evaluating GC376’s as a potential treatment for COVID-19. GC376 IS NOT AVAILABLE TO VETERINARIANS OR THE GENERAL PUBLIC.