In response to the global COVID-19 pandemic, Prof. Jinn-Moon Yang, the director of the Department of Biological Science & Technology at the National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University (NYCU), created an intercollegiate and interdisciplinary smart dynamic system-based biological and medicine development team. Among the numerous types of medicine applied worldwide, the team selected 4 types of potential old medicine that inhibit COVID-19 activities to create a drug that can treat COVID-19 infection. This drug can reduce relevant costs substantially; eliminate the time required for clinical trials, which may take up to several years; and be applied immediately in first-line medical practice, lowering the risks of infection among patients and medical professionals and bringing hope to COVID-19 treatment.
According to Prof. Yang, the development team achieved the one-stop integration of smart calculation, cell experiments, and animal experiments. This team, which consists of the members from NYCU, National Taiwan University, Academia Sinica, National Chung Hsing University, and the Institute of Preventive Medicine of the National Defense Medical Center, integrates the top research and development talents in Taiwan. Using AI and Big Data, the team simulates the cell changes in the bodies of hosts infected by COVID-19 and compares over 250 3D structural images of the main proteases of COVID-19 made public worldwide. The team discovered the 6 possible dynamic structures in the key proteins COVID-19 used to invade human cells, thereby identifying the weaknesses of the proteases. Within 3 months, the team discovered the potential medicine that inhibits COVID-19 activities. The medicine includes Boceprevir and Telaprevir, which are used to treat hepatitis C virus; and Nelfinavir, which is used to treat acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. Particularly, JMY206, an old anti-inflammatory drug, was discovered through a cell experiment to exceed Remdesivir in impeding COVID-19 activities by tens of times; an animal experiment also confirmed the treatment effect of JMY206, making it a strong potential oral drug for combatting COVID-19.
In this intercollegiate and interdisciplinary collaboration, Dr. Po-Huang Liang of the Institute of Biological Chemistry of Academia Sinica and Associate Professor Chih-Jung Kuo of the Department of Veterinary Medicine of National Chung Hsing University have conducted protease activity tests; Dr. Jaw-Jou Kang of the School of Pharmaceutical Sciences of NYCU, the team from the Institute of Preventive Medicine of National Defense Medical Center (Director Yi-Jen Hung, Dr. Po-Shiuan Hsieh, Dr. Chih-Heng Huang, and Dr. Yu-Hsiu Chang), and Prof. Sui-Yuan Chang of the Department of Clinical Laboratory Sciences and Medical Biotechnology of National Taiwan University have conducted multiple cell experiments and verifications. Some of the results of the experiments have been published in ACS Nano, a top international journal. These results are expected to enhance the biotechnological medicine research in Taiwan and accelerate its clinical medicine development.