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Chinese scientists to start clinical trials of natural extracts with proven efficacy against COVID

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Chinese scientists have obtained a patent for their research on the application of cepharanthine, a compound extracted from traditional Chinese herbal medicine, to fight the SARS-CoV-2, which showed impressive results. 

Tong Yigang, a scientist at the Beijing University of Chemical Technology and leader of the research team, told the Global Times that he and his team are planning to kick off clinical trials on cepharanthine’s efficacy on COVID-19 patients.  

Tong said he had worked with scientists from other top Chinese research teams to test the efficacy of the compound to restrain the SAR-CoV-2. 

Results showed that the inhibition rate of cepharanthine at low concentrations can still reach as high as 100 percent, according to materials Tong sent to the Global Times.    

Cepharanthine is extracted from traditional Chinese herbal medicine. Researchers showed that it can inhibit SARS-CoV-2’s entry through the blocking of viral binding to target cells. It is also able to restrict other viruses like HIV, SARS, HBV and Ebola, which make it a potential broad-stream anti-virus treatment, according to Tong. 

The therapy has been used for 40 years on cancer patients to increase their white blood cell count. So it’s safe, Tong noted.  

Tong said that the team found the compound’s potential in treating COVID-19 in early 2020. His team was issued the patent on May 10 amid nationwide flare-ups which pushed expectations for more effective treatments and vaccines high among Chinese people.   


In addition to Tong’s team’s research, many other Chinese companies and researchers are also speeding up development as experts stressed that effective treatments are one of the necessary conditions for China to safely resume domestic and international exchanges.

According to industrial analysis, there were 21 domestic COVID-19 drugs under research and development as of Friday, among them six had reached phase III clinical trials.   

The VV116, an oral anti-SARS-CoV-2 nucleoside candidate jointly developed by the Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Wuhan Institute of Virology, is one of the most focused candidates. Some analysts predicted that mid-term data on its phase III clinical trials could be released next week, and it is also possible that the drug can be approved for emergency use in China by mid-June.  

Global Times

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