Interview with Zyon Ayni, Founder and CEO of Code Pharma
As researchers, scientists and antivirus specialists work around the clock to identify ways to help protect individuals and communities across the globe against the pandemic, Netherlands based Code Pharma, led by Zyon Ayni, is one step ahead of the game with Codivir, a potential game changer medication that gets COVID-19 affected patients up and about within 48 hours with no side effects. Code Pharma is now initiating a phase 2 controlled study to be conducted in several countries with a larger cohort and has already submitted emergency approval requests to several affected countries.
An entrepreneur and a businessman. Zyon founded Code Pharma to develop groundbreaking medical solutions such as Codivir, an antiviral drug that has had great success in clinical trials and has received emergency permits in different regions of the world for it to be used in treating coronavirus patients.
We meet with Zyon in Dubai to talk about his many years of experience in the pharma industry, about spearheading Code Pharma into a leading global pharmaceutical entity, his role as a dad, his time with family and his upcoming fights as a professional Muay Thai fighter.
Tell us a bit about your business ventures?
I got involved in several businesses at a young age. At 32, I had already founded one of the largest restaurant and leisure business empire in Amsterdam. By pure coincidence, I got involved in the fascinating world of pharmaceutical industry and now I am focused on perfecting an antivirus drug for COVID-19 with my team.
How did you get into healthcare and the specialisation for antiviral treatments?
During a routine visit to the dentist, I was waiting for my appointment and came across an article in a medical journal that talked about the Hebrew University of Israel doing studies for HIV cure and being close to a solution to beat the virus.
The scientists had found a mechanism to destroy cells infected with HIV and were looking for investors who could help them turn their scientific discovery into actual medicine and my entrepreneurship nature saw this as an opportunity. I found it fascinating to be able to do something different that is positive to the world and decided to connect with the University.
Give us an overview on Code Pharma and when it was established?
I founded Code Pharma in 2014 in Netherlands, financed the project on my own and launched the project in collaboration with Professor Abraham Loyter of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Today it is a global pharmaceutical company, headquartered in the Netherlands, with R&D activities centered in Israel, led by Dr. Eynat Finkelshtein and Dr. Esmira Naftali.
We are focused on developing cost-effective treatments for infectious and oncological diseases by using novel peptides and bringing together outstanding professionals with multidisciplinary expertise in peptides, cell cultures, clinical development, and chemistry manufacturing.
As a scientific research company in the field of viral infections, HIV and Cancer research, what milestones have you achieved?
We have already found an effective way to combat HIV infected cells and started studies where we are targeting cancer cells with the same mechanism that kills HIV affected cells. The drug has been given to stage 4 cancer patients and we saw the elimination of many cancer cells. We are looking to stabilize the medication so it can reach more cancer cells.
For COVID-19, our team has concluded phase one with Codivir in Brazil. With that, the medication is proven to be safe, and we were able also to demonstrate a reduction in viral load of the patients, during the time course of the treatment.
What is Codivir and how did you come up with the name for the Antiviral Drug Codivir?
Codivir is a short synthetic 16 amino-acid peptide, derived from the HIV-1 integrase. It was originally found in preclinical and clinical examinations to combat the HIV virus. The first two letters Co comes from Covid, Cod is the Code from our company name and Vir is code name for virus. We are breaking the code of virus.
As you aim to bring to the market cost-effective treatments, can you tell us about your progress for cure for COVID-19 phase 2 after the success of Phase 1?
During the phase 1 study, we checked the efficacy of our medication and saw patients showing clear results after the first injection. Phase 1 clinical trial of Codivir in patients with COVID-19 was approved in Brazil by the National Research Ethics Commission (CONEP).
The trial was conducted at Casa de Saúde, Vera Cruz Hospital in São Paulo, Brazil, with Dr Florentino Cardoso and results showed that Codivir has a high safety profile while significantly suppressing viral patients with an antiviral effect noted as early as three days.
We are now initiating a phase 2 controlled study to be conducted in Spain, Brazil, South Africa, and Israel, with a larger cohort. Code Pharma has also submitted emergency approval requests to several affected countries and to meet the expected demand, the company is preparing for mass production of Codivir in different sites worldwide. This will be initiated end of October with larger clinical studies of a minimum of 150 people.
How does Codivir show a promising effect against COVID-19?
Code Pharma discovered that the peptide had a direct antiviral effect against SARS-CoV-2, the novel Coronavirus causing COVID-19. Subsequent In-vitro studies conducted at the British virology research laboratory Virology Research Services in London then confirmed a potent antiviral activity against SARS-CoV-2 and other RNA viruses. Even the HIV-infected cells go into self-induced death (apoptosis), and Lentivirus manipulation in the case of cancer therapy.
Our patients have shown recovery between 6 to 48 hours. Normally COVID patients have side effects like losing taste and smell, muscle pain or weakness but none of our patients have any side effects. A Manuscript describing these results has also been submitted to a peer-reviewed journal as well.
Tell us about the experts working on the project and what do they say about Codivir and its results?
Dr Yotam Kolben from the Department of Medicine at Hadassah Medical Center one of the lead authors of the paper said that the preclinical data and the results of the clinical trial support the safety of Codivir administration in humans and suggest its significant anti-COVID-19 effect.
He has indicated that using a direct anti-viral drug carries the potential for improving the current therapies available for COVID-19. These results show that the drug can be used to treat COVID-19 patients suffering at different levels of severity. Due to its direct anti-viral effect, Codivir may have a similar beneficial effect on other RNA viruses, such as influenza.
In the UK labs, we have done similar tests on the influenza virus and had the same effect. This now suggests that it has an anti-viral effect on RNA viruses such as influenza, dengue, yellow fever. While an antibiotic is for bacteria, Codivir can be a treatment for virus infections.
Prof Shlomo L. Maayan, Director Infectious Disease division at the Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon has also said that Codivir has a very good safety profile and a very impressive antiviral effect, both in laboratory conditions and in phase 1 clinical trial in humans. He eagerly awaits the results of the double-blind studies using Codivir and has said that it may be a breakthrough in the field of antiviral therapy for COVID-19 patients.
How has the response been from the Governments?
We are in contact with governments all over the world and expecting to get emergency approvals from a substantial number of them by the end of a successful phase II study. We are currently in Dubai and looking for local partners in the UAE and other countries to do local production and distribution.
Can you tell us about your CSR initiatives?
My philanthropic activities are mainly in Africa where I finance the expenses of orphaned children by covering their tuition and accommodation. In the future we hope to extend this initiative to other parts of the world.
With so many groundbreaking studies and international interest, do you get time for recreation?
I love spending time with my family and have two kids. I also have a huge passion for martial arts. I am a trained Muay Thai fighter and in this year, I have eight upcoming fights scheduled in Thailand which should keep me busy in between my work for Code Pharma. Like Codivir is a miracle that beats the opponent in its fight to eliminate the virus, I need one more miracle and lot of hard training in my Muay Thai journey to beat my opponents to victory in the professional competitions.
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