The news comes against the backdrop of both skyrocketing infection in Israel and a mass vaccination campaign.
A Tel Aviv-based start-up company claims it has proven in lab results that a combination of plant-based “natural compounds” can decompose the COVID-19 spike protein that connects the virus to human cells.
The Jerusalem Post has seen highlights of the research developed by Novel Concepts Medical, which was first written about by some UK-based publications and republished by MSN News. The research was not peer reviewed and at least one researcher who has seen the preliminary data has raised questions about its accuracy.
The company has applied for a patent in the United States through the Ehrlich and Fenster law firm, whose managing director, Dr. Gal Ehrlich, has a PhD in Genetic Engineering from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
The lab is run by Dr. Raphael Mayer, former head of the Assay Development Department at Quark Biotechnology Inc. in Ness Ziona. He holds a PhD in biochemistry from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
The Smart Assays lab is involved in very basic, early-stage scientific research and does not conduct experiments on animals nor does it conduct human clinical trials.
“The spike protein is the part in the virus that connects the virus to the cell,” explained Dr. Rachel R. Alkalay, a lawyer who holds a PhD from Queen Mary College in London but is not a medical doctor. “All the research in the world is focused on this spike protein. We managed to decompose it. Essentially, this is the equivalent of taking the fuel out of a car.”
Alkalay told the Post that all of the compounds tested in the lab are “already approved and sold in the world for other purposes.” She add that, “Our findings show that it is very possible to have an immediate effect in inhibiting the virus in people who have been exposed.”
Specifically, the research indicated that after six hours of treatment, the spike protein showed a 26% signal decrease relative to the non-treated incubated protein.
Natural compounds have been tested in the fight against COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. A paper published in October by the National Institutes of Health said that “natural products and herbal medicines have been historically used for acute respiratory infection and generally show acceptable toxicity” adding that “to fill in the response gap between appropriate treatment and commercially available vaccine, repurposing natural products and herbal medicines as prophylactic will be a vigorous approach to stop or at least slow down SARS-CoV-2 transmission.”
A researcher at Tel Aviv University who asked not be quoted by name but has seen some of the results, said that the research was extremely preliminary and would need to be repeated more times in order to prove the compounds’ effectiveness.
She noted that some supplements have been recommended to reduce the severity of the novel coronavirus if contracted, but nothing has been proven thus far.
Alkalay clarified that the pre-clinical experiments were meant to show early-bird proof that the virus proteins are decomposed by her company’s invention. She said that Novel Concepts Medical plans to carryout the necessary clinical trials and is looking for collaborators.
It should be noted that since the start of the crisis, much research has been done on topics related to diagnosis and cures for the virus that have not been peer reviewed or followed up, and sometimes it is difficult to tell the difference in the preliminary stages.
The press release on the research did not name which specific natural compounds were included in the formula and Alkalay said she could not share specifics due to the pending patent.