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Rochester biotech company says it's testing compound with 'high-potential' as coronavirus cure


A Rochester company is working on finding a treatment for coronavirus - and appears close to a cure.

The biotech company OyaGen has been working with a compound called OYA1 that they say could treat coronavirus in a new way.

Rather than a vaccine, the compound works by preventing the virus from making copies of itself and spreading to other cells.

The compound has only been tested in a laboratory setting and has not been peer-reviewed. It's possible that it could take anywhere from three months to a year to be available for clinical trials.

OyaGen President and CEO Harold Smith said the compound has been tested for safety in the 1960s, when it was being considered for use on cancer patients. He is hoping this information will encourage the FDA to fast-track OYA1 for clinical testing in humans.

"When we are in a dire situation as we are at this time, with coronavirus, we can’t be flat-footed and look at this as we’ve got an academic leisure approach to this," Smith said.

Smith is a tenured professor of biochemistry and biophysics at the University of Rochester. He previously has worked on identifying compounds to treat the Ebola virus and MERS. Those compounds never went to trial, either, but he said they were also effective in laboratory settings.

"Our longstanding effort has been to capitalize on what was my academic strength, that everyone has the inate ability to protect themselves against infection," said Smith.

Smith said he has been working with the federal government to develop these treatments.

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