Vaccination, vaccination, vaccination. This is the mantra of Professor Ronni Gamzu, CEO of Sourasky Medical Center (known as the Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv).
He met this Tuesday 9 the Brazilian delegation which went to Israel to discuss a collaboration in the research of the nasal spray EXO-CD24, developed in the hospital. In an interview with Folha, Gamzu said antiviral drugs such as aerosols are important, but nothing beats mass vaccination as a weapon against the Covid-19 epidemic.
According to Gamzu, “there is enthusiasm” in Brazil regarding Israeli medicine that it does not see in other countries. The doctor sees this with good eyes, but warns: “With all due respect to antivirals, viral illnesses only end with vaccines.” In addition, he says, the development and testing of the new drug can take “months or even years.”
The drug EXO-CD24 was announced in early February and tested on 30 seriously ill volunteers hospitalized in Ichilov. According to the hospital, 29 patients recovered within 3 to 5 days. Phase 1 of development ended in January, but the scientific article on the research has yet to be published, which is expected to take place by the end of this month.
This Tuesday, the Brazilian delegation and representatives of the hospital, including the creator of the spray, Nadir Arber, signed an agreement to carry out phases 2 and 3 of the tests in Brazil.
The cost of Brazilian cooperation was not disclosed. Gamzu – named the “coronavirus czar,” as head of the Israeli government’s task force in combating the pandemic – warns that the development of new drugs “is expensive and risky.”
On the third and final day of the visit to Israel, the delegation, led by Foreign Minister Ernesto Araújo, signed a memorandum of understanding with Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem for collaboration in the development of ‘a vaccine.
The Israeli hospital immunizer is still in the initial testing phase, as are some of the 15 under development in Brazil. The Secretary for Research and Scientific Training of the Ministry of Science and Technology, Marcelo Morales, said that producing a Brazilian vaccine is a matter of “national sovereignty” because “this virus is here to stay” .
Chancellor and MP Eduardo Bolsonaro (PSL-SP) also met with the Speaker of the Knesset (the Israeli Parliament), Yariv Levin, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s chief of staff, Tzachi Braverman.
The content of the talks was not disclosed, but Levin said there was an expectation of President Bolsonaro’s promise to move the Brazilian embassy to Jerusalem. Neither the Chancellor nor President 03’s son wanted to speak to Folha. Araújo even canceled a previously scheduled interview.
Like mr. do you see the interest of Brazil for the spray developed in Ichilov?
We are all doing our best – governments, scientists and doctors – to find solutions to the coronavirus crisis. Not only with vaccines, but also by developing technology for antiviral drugs. We want to use our ability to have better cures for the virus. It’s a difficult operation, so you have to collaborate [entre os países].
What was the result of the meeting with the Brazilian delegation visiting Israel?
It has been decided that Israel will work with Brazil to move forward with phase 2 of the remedy, ensuring that we can understand more quickly how to use this drug in the fight against the coronavirus.
In Brazil, EXO-CD24 nasal spray is considered a miracle drug …
You see: the best way out of the coronavirus crisis is with vaccination. We have antivirals and we are developing more. But it’s a long process, a journey.
We have candidates. This smart molecule is one of them, but it’s not a miracle. I suggest not to take medication now and make it the real solution, because the real solution is prevention. We must continue our scientific struggle to find cures, but remember: prevention, prevention, prevention. Vaccination, vaccination, vaccination.
Is Ichilov also making agreements with other countries?
We receive requests from all over the world, mostly initial. The drug development process is preliminary, so we go cautiously.
In Brazil there is great enthusiasm and the country has a lot of strength. We really need countries where there is morbidity (many deaths) to recruit patients. So right now there is a beginning, a thread for scientific collaboration. I really hope we will be successful.
Will the collaboration with Brazil be different from that with other countries?
Yes, there is an enthusiasm for going into details and implementing actions very, very quickly. I see this less in other countries. We have a great friendship with Brazil. We are always ready to collaborate, because the development of new drugs is difficult. It is not easy and neither is it cheap. There are risks.
Have the values been discussed?
Not yet. We haven’t gotten to that, but it is clear that when it comes to drug development, there is a cost.
What is the next step?
Approve international multicenter surveys. We talked about it. In a month, we will accelerate this in Israel and abroad.
How many patients will be part of phase 2 in Brazil?
A few dozen. In the third phase, it’s more. There needs to be a controlled study comparing who takes the drug with who takes a placebo.
If all goes well, when can this drug really be available to the public?
It’s the development of a new drug, so it’s a matter of months, if not years. In this time of epidemic, we are going a little faster, but we cannot skip any phase.
Mr. Heard from Brazilians objections to vaccines?
No, but you have to put things in proportion. You have to do both at the same time (develop vaccines and drugs), but you have to know what is most important.
With all due respect to antivirals, viral illnesses only end with vaccines.