Published: 15:43, 01 May 2020
| Updated: 17:51, 01 May 2020
Scientists working in the same Kent labs where Viagra was discovered say they have found a treatment for coronavirus.
Vice president of drug product design at Pfizer, Brian Henry said he was blown away at the speed in which his employees at Sandwich identified the molecule.
It was one of 3,000 that the US pharmaceutical giant had on its drug database which was collated during the Sars crisis in 2003.
Scientists at Sandwich are now working all hours including evenings and weekends to convert the molecule into a formulation that is recognised as a medicine.
The team of 25 - working in the same labs where Peter Dunn and Albert Wood discovered erectile dysfunction drug Viagra in 1997 - must identify a substance in which it will dissolve, allowing it to be injected into the body.
Such work would usually be done over the course of 12 months but instead the teams are dedicated to completing it within four months.
"Science has moved on since Sars in 2003 and you can do a lot more on a computer.
"Say the virus is a lock, it's unique, we needed to find a drug that was the key.
"Without doing a single experiment, we were able to see which components matched on the computer.
"We found one that fitted very early on, in early March.
"To get such a strong lead from Pfizer's database of molecules was a tremendous accelerator for us. It enabled us to get all the resources into place."
Pharmaceutical companies around the world are working on three objectives in the fight against Covid-19.
Dr Henry explained some are focussing on a vaccine to prevent people contracting it, others are looking at treatments and a third realm is working to expand knowledge on the virus.
He said: "The drug is very potent and stops the virus from replicating giving the body a chance to fight back.
"We know it does work against the virus but we need to produce the method. You have to find something you can dissolve it into, a magic combination.
"It has got top priority, everything that needs to be spent is being spent."
Trials are likely to take place in the United States in the third quarter of this year and if approved, Pfizer will have to produce hundreds of thousands of doses.
It is hoped its could be in use worldwide by early 2022, although dependant on demand, regulators may have influence to have it fast tracked.
Dr Henry said: "It takes a village to create a medicine. You need all the skills and disciplines and I'm very proud of our efforts so far.
"Everyone is working on a united common enemy. It's a tough position we're in - working on part of a solution. This happens once in a generation.
"Ultimately science will win, we'll develop a treatment and we'll turn this one around."