Cautious optimism: a Canada – Italy link in a therapy for Covid-19 patients

di Joe Volpe del 14 April 2020

TORONTO - Breaking news: a therapy in the offing to defeat the voracious appetite of the Novel Coronavirus. Good news: patents have been registered in Washington (DC) USA, Italy, England and Canada; and testing protocols are being subjected to the strictures of participating Universities and hospitals from those countries (so far, Cambridge (UK) Concordia (Canada)and Italy).

It beats the semi-useless, daily press conferences conducted by Canadian political leadership at a loss to explain the size of, and the fluctuations in, numbers of the infected, the dying and the survivors of Covid-19. This exercise is a race recounting who is losing the most.

In a “breath of fresh air”, the Italian Media and Press were replete with stories about the discovery of a potential vaccine to Covid-19 announced, perhaps symbolically the day after Easter, by Doctor Giacomo Rossi, a 52- year old professor specializing in veterinary sciences at the University of Camerino, where he leads a team of researchers at the School of Bioscience and Veterinary Medicine (Unicam). The “boutique” University is classified as the best in Italy among those with less than 10,000 registered students.

Dr. Rossi’s studies examined early data available from Wuhan, China and from his own team’s research in a related, and lethal, coronavirus manifested among felines. The original theory presumably being that if a virus could jump from one species (bats, snakes) to another, then there could be something to be learned from how it might interact with the cell structure of yet others. His research caught the early attention of a Canadian scientist, researcher and entrepreneur, Francesco Bellini, co-founder of Biochem Pharma in Quebec.

Certainly, the data reported from infected areas in Italy was su#ciently documented and quantitative to inspire curiosity and merit investigation. The race to report numbers took on a different aspect.

This is a different race. To paraphrase Claudio Pettinari, Provost at Unicam, “we need to allocate our foremost experts and latest expertise in the race to find solutions that may produce the best results in benefits to global health. Montreal’s Heart Institute Foundation and the Canada Science Technology and Innovation Council are collaborating partners.

Several American and Canadian hospitals have already – in the last three days – signed on to evaluate the findings and to conduct trials. The American process for clinical trials is typically faster than the European one, leading some to speculate that “within a month we could have the first results” from which to evaluate the scientific legitimacy of our hypotheses. To date, the interceptors and the manner of introducing them into the virus-host relationship appears to be working in a laboratory.

This is an indispensable first step, but only a first step, to developing an immunization and/or therapeutic cure-strategy to defeat the virus of the century.

It is needed; but we cannot let down our guard. Keep your distance and wash your hands.


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