Academia Sinica, Taiwan’s leading research institute, has been making scientific breakthroughs since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

On Friday, Academia Sinica announced that a research team led by Dr. Liang Po-huang has identified several protease inhibitors of the Covid-19 virus. One inhibitor can suppress viral replication 10 times more than other known inhibitors in vitro, the researchers found.

Viral protease inhibitor drugs can inhibit coronaviruses in human cells and they have been highly effective in treating HIV and Hepatitis C, but more research on their effects is necessary, according to Lisa Sedger, head of the Viruses and Cytokine Biology group at the University of Technology Sydney.

Dr. Liang told The News Lens that animal testing and human trials are still required before confirming whether the protease inhibitors will lead to a Covid-19 drug. Another group at Academia Sinica will test the inhibitors using mice.

The protease inhibitors they’ve discovered are designated for treatment, not a vaccine, according to Dr. Liang. Laboratories around the world have identified compounds that inhibit Covid-19 and are racing to pass clinical trials.

Dr. Liang and his team will continue to look for different classes of inhibitors. He cited his previous work during the 2003 SARS epidemic as the basis for his current research.

In March, Academia Sinica also discovered antibodies that could be used to develop a rapid coronavirus detection kit. Regular testing now requires around four hours or more to produce results, but the new kit would reduce the time to within 20 minutes. Researchers are working with the government to push the rapid testing kit out to market as quickly as possible.

The current testing kits in South Korea and the United States have a turnaround time of about 24 hours.

Although Taiwan is barred from joining the World Health Organization, the country has been making significant progress in developing medical solutions for the coronavirus.

“We can do this ourselves inside Taiwan, no problem at all,” Dr. Liang said.

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TNL Editor: Daphne K. Lee (@thenewslensintl)

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