Taipei, May 14 (CNA) Taiwanese and Australian university researchers will work together on developing new drugs with potential efficacy against various viruses, including the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes the COVID-19 disease, Taiwan's Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) said Thursday.
In video conference call on May 7, researchers from Australia's Monash University and Taiwan's Chang Gung University (CGU) expressed a strong desire to embark on a study and reached an agreement on the areas in which they will cooperate, the ministry said.
Under the agreement, Taiwan will provide strains of the SARS-CoV-2 and other viruses, and Australia will provide the anti-parasitic drug Ivermectin to study its effectiveness against COVID-19, the ministry said, adding the research will be carried out in Taiwan laboratories.
The cooperation will focus on identifying novel therapeutic drug targets against COVID-19 and will be expanded to study their effectiveness against other viruses, including HIV, dengue, Zika, and influenza, the ministry said.
The two universities have decided to sign a cooperation deal and a non-disclosure agreement, after which they will quickly embark on the studies, according to the ministry.
The agreement on the joint research, which may lead to the development of a drug for COVID-19, was initiated by MOST after it learned of studies in Australia that showed the anti-parasitic drug Ivermectin eliminating the SARS-CoV-2 virus in cells within 48 hours in a laboratory setting.
The studies were conducted by Monash University's Biomedicine Discovery Institute and the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity in Australia, and the former released its findings on April 3.
Taiwan's representative office in Australia then approached the universities to propose further research in collaboration with CGU, according to Shih Shin-ru (施信如), director of the CGU Research Center for Emerging Viral Infections, who will serve as the project manager in Taiwan.
Established in 2009, CGU's Research Center for Emerging Viral Infections receives subsidies from MOST and plays a leading role in Taiwan's response to diseases like SARS and H1N1 and their effects on the society, economy, transportation, ecology and education.
(By Su Szu-yun and Evelyn Kao)