& Michel Chrétien

As coronavirus spread speeds up, Montreal researchers will trial an anti-viral treatment for COVID-19 in China

Quercetin has already proven successful at treating Ebola and Zika viruses

Researchers in Québec are hopeful that a drug derived from plants could be the key to curing infections caused by the novel coronavirus.

The broad spectrum anti-viral medicine known as quercetin has already proven successful at treating Ebola and Zika viruses, says Dr. Michel Chrétien, a researcher at the Clinical Research Institute of Montreal.

Now, he and co-researcher Majambu Mbikay are awaiting approval to send the drug to China where a clinical trial will test its effectiveness on COVID-19.

"As soon as we receive the OK from China, we are ready to move," Chrétien told The Current's Matt Galloway.

Since the COVID-19 outbreak first began in January, researchers around the world — including in Canada — have been racing to develop a vaccine or treatment for the illness.

While Chrétien cautions against "false hope" saying that quercetin's effectiveness for treating COVID-19 must be proven, Mbikay is optimistic for its potential.

He believes the novel coronavirus may infect people in a way similar to viruses that came before it. That means the drug could have the ability to block the virus from developing in the body.

"We believe that this particular drug interrupts the entry of viruses … so that you can attack several viruses at the same time," said Mbikay.

China trials

Since the SARS outbreak in 2003, researchers have been studying potential treatments for the disease amid worries that it could resurface. As part of that research, Mbikay says, he and Chrétien stumbled upon quercetin. As of Friday, COVID-19 has infected people in 49 countries according to the WHO, with more new cases reported in South Korea than China where the disease originated.

The Ontario government announced the province's 7th case of the illness on Friday, bringing the total of confirmed cases in Canada to 14.

Though the WHO has yet to declare the outbreak a pandemic, several countries and institutions are preparing the for possibility. 

Given the illness' rapid spread, Chrétien is hoping trials for the drug can will quickly confirm whether or not quercetin is effective for treating COVID-19 safely.

Based on the trial protocol he has developed with his team, 20 to 30 patients will be given the drug and monitored for reaction. The following week more will be added.

"Then you collect all the data — that clinical data — and then you make an evaluation on a weekly basis, if not daily basis, to see how it goes."

He says it's possible that they will have results on quercetin's ability to treat COVID-19 within 60 days of a clinical trial starting.

Chrétien says that they have requested funding from the federal government for a Canadian trial, they are waiting to hear back.

Low cost

Some patients infected with COVID-19 are currently being treated with a variety of anti-viral drugs, some with a price tag upwards of $1,000 per injection, Mbikay says.

Quercetin, by comparison, would cost just $2 per day.

"It is not expensive. It's a natural product. It's found in nature and purified from plants. Compared to what is available now, and that is being tried in China right now, it doesn't compare in terms of price," Mbikay said.

Chrétien adds that quercetin is an oral drug, which provides benefits over intravenous anti-virals.

As the novel coronavirus begins to infect people in developing countries, Mbikay adds that creating an affordable treatment is key to slowing the outbreak.

"If we can show that this quercetin works, it would be made available to African countries, [other] countries that do not have the infrastructure, nor the means to combat it effectively," he said.

Written by Jason Vermes. Segment produced by Paul MacInnis.

SOURCE= https://www.cbc.ca/radio/thecurrent/the-current-for-feb-28-2020-1.5479561/as-coronavirus-spread-speeds-up-montreal-researchers-will-trial-an-anti-viral-treatment-for-covid-19-in-china-1.5480134

ANOTHER ARTICLE ON HIS WORK; https://www.mcgilltribune.com/sci-tech/montreal-researchers-propose-a-treatment-for-covid-19-170320/



                            Fifteen years ago, a medical researcher named Michel Chrétien and his longtime collaborator Majambu Mbikay, a Congolese scientist, unhatched a theory in their Montreal laboratory. In the aftermath of the SARS epidemic that infected 8,000 patients in 26 countries, Chrétien and Mbikay, researchers at the Clinical Research Institute of Montreal (IRCM), began testing their idea that a derivative of quercetin, a plant compound known to help lower cholesterol and treat inflammatory disease—and common, at low doses, in over-the-counter medication—was a “broad spectrum” antiviral drug that could fight a range of viruses.

When an Ebola outbreak struck West Africa in 2014, the two scientists teamed up with the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg to test quercetin’s effectiveness on mice infected with Ebola—and found it effective even when administered only minutes before infection. It still needs to undergo clinical trials.

But when a new global health crisis erupted in Wuhan, China late last year, Chrétien and his team once again got to thinking. They believed the drug might work on COVID-19, which has infected more than 130,000 people and killed 4,700, according to the World Health Organization. They knew a Swiss drug manufacturer, Quercegen Pharmaceuticals, could rapidly produce doses of the treatment in the hundreds of thousands.

The 84-year-old Chrétien was, for a time, the world’s seventh most cited scientist. His name runs atop more than 600 publications and he proudly affixes an Order of Canada pin to his lapel. His achievements rival those of his older brother Jean—an impressive claim given that particular sibling served as prime minister of Canada for a decade. Michel has almost certainly saved more lives in his time.

Michel Chrétien has a long-standing connection to high-level scientists in China. While a student at the University of California, Berkeley, he received some training from a Chinese researcher, Dr. C.H. Li, an enduring connection that saw him visit and work in China eight times starting in 1979. In the 1980s, Chrétien was an honorary professor at the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and Peking Union Medical College. In 1984, when he started a decade-long stint as president of the IRCM, he trained emerging scientists from China there. One of those relative youngsters was Chen Zhu, a molecular biologist who, back home in China, eventually entered politics and served as minister of health from 2007 until 2013. When a novel coronavirus outbreak exploded in China this past January, Chrétien contacted Zhu with an offer: “Can we help?”

Zhu contacted officials at the highest levels of the National Health Commission, the government agency managing the crisis. Word came back to Chrétien and his team in mid-February. Last week, they invited Chrétien’s team to start clinical trials in China. The plan: send samples of quercetin to the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Wuhan. The Canadian and Chinese scientists would collaborate on the trials, which would include about 1,000 test patients. Chrétien and Mbikay plan to join colleagues from the non-profit International Consortium of Antivirals—which Chrétien co-founded with Jeremy Carver in 2004 as a response to the SARS epidemic—in manning a 24/7 communications center as soon as clinical trials go ahead.

The U.S.-based Food and Drug Administration has already approved quercetin as safe for human consumption, which means the researchers can skip testing on animals. If the treatment works, it’ll be readily available. Now Chrétien just needs the funding to start the trials. He estimates the teams need $5 million. But the payoff, he says, could be huge.

Chrétien’s team says their treatment would cost only $2 a day. They’ve spent weeks pursuing officials at Global Affairs Canada, including senior staff in the office of Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne. The Lazaridis Family Foundation has already contributed $1 million to the cause, enough to start clinical trials. There’s no time to waste, says Chrétien. “I’ve been doing science all my life. I’ve stumbled on things my entire career, and this is probably the most urgent one I’ve been confronted with,” he says.

Quercetin isn’t the only possible treatment for COVID-19; Nature reported that 80 clinical trials on potential treatments are underway in China. But it remains one of the biggest potential leaps in finding a treatment for the deadly coronavirus strain; if it works, it could save thousands of lives.

Chrétien, who has spent most of his extensive medical career wearing a lab coat and testing hypotheses, simply touts the benefits of academic freedom as he and his team go about their work. “Basic science is worth doing for the sake of doing it, not knowing what the results will be in the short term or medium term,” he says. “Long-term returns can be big.”

SOURCE; https://www.macleans.ca/news/canada/a-made-in-canada-solution-to-the-coronavirus-outbreak/


Biography of Michel Chrétien

  • IRCM Emeritus Research Professor 

  • Emeritus Professor, Université de Montréal

  • Emeritus Scientist, Chronic Disease Program, Ottawa Hospital Research Institute (OHRI)

  • Professor, Department of Biochemistry, Microbiology and Immunology (BMI), Faculty of Medicine, University of Ottawa

  • Founder and Professor, Ottawa Institute of Systems Biology (OISB)

Honorary Degrees

  • D.Sc. (Honoris Causa), Université de Liège, Belgium (1980)

  • D.Sc. (Honoris Causa), Université René Descartes, Paris (1992)

  • D.Sc. (Honoris Causa), Université Laurentienne, Ontario (1996)

  • D.Sc. (Honoris Causa), University of Guelph, Ontario (1999)

  • D.Sc. (Honoris Causa), Memorial University, Newfoundland and Labrador (2000)

Executive and Research Positions

  • Scientific Director and President, IRCM (1984-1994)

  • Scientific Director and President, Loeb Research Institute (LRI), Ottawa Hospital (1998-2001)

  • Laboratory Director, IRCM, LRI and OHRI (1967-present)

Degrees and Training

  • MD, Université de Montréal (1960)

  • M.Sc., Experimental Medicine (Drs. J Genest/JSL Browne), McGill University  (1962)

  • MRC Research Fellow (Dr. J Genest), Hôtel-Dieu de Montréal (1960-1962)

  • Resident, Internal Medicine and Endocrinology (Drs. G Thorn/G Cahill), Harvard Medical School (1962-1964)

  • Assistant Biochemist (Dr. CH Li), UC Berkeley and UCSF (1964-1967)

  • Professor in residence (sabbatical), Un Cambridge (Dr. L Iversen) & Salk Institute (Dr. R Guillemin) (1979-1980)

Major Awards/Recognitions                                                                                

  • Fellow, Royal Society (London) (FRS)

  • Fellow, Royal Society of Canada (FRSC)

  • Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science (FAAAS)

  • Fellow, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada (FRCPC)

  • Fellow, American College of Physicians (FACP)

  • Honorary Professor, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and Peking Union Medical College (PUMC)

  • Officer, Order of Canada (O.C.)

  • Officer, Ordre National du Québec (O.Q.)

  • Officer, National Order of the Legion of Honour, France (OLH)

  • Killam Prize, Art Council of Canada

  • McLaughlin Medal, Royal Society of Canada

  • Arthur Wynne Award, Canadian Society for Biomolecular Sciences

  • Boehringer-Mannheim Award, Canadian Society for Biomolecular Sciences

  • Henry Friesen Award, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada

  • Clarke Institute of Psychiatry Prize, Toronto

  • Prix Archambault, ACFAS, Canada

  • Fuller Albright Medal, Peripatetic Club, USA

  • Jeremiah Metzger Lecturer, Am. Clin. Climatological Association, USA

  • Scholar, Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation, USA

  • Scholar, Jane Coffin Childs Memorial Fund for Medical Research, USA

Source; https://ircm.qc.ca/en/biography/michel-chretien


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