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Soap for your mouth

Updated on: 30 January,2022 09:06 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Jane Borges |

A just-launched oral and nasal spray can fight COVID like your handwash, say makers

Soap for your mouth

Soumitra Sen, brand thinker at ErasaVir, uses the oral spray, which has properties to disintegrate any viral load on the surfaces of the upper respiratory tract, according to the manufacturers Pic/Sameer Markande

The last two years of the pandemic have introduced new behaviours as part of our everyday—masking up, washing hands and sanitising, in particular, have become second nature. A just-released scientific innovation hopes to add one more habit to this mix. ErasaVir, a first-of-its-kind oral and nasal spray, developed by Palani LLC, USA in collaboration with Strassenburg Pharmaceuticals, India, works like an antibacterial soap, providing protection against SARS-CoV-2, influenza and other pathogens, say the makers. 

The idea for the innovation first came to Anupam Dokeniya when the pandemic broke out in February 2020. Dokeniya is the founder of a bio-pharmaceuticals company that is engaged in drug development, based on a fatty acid platform, to address hard-to-treat solid tumours. “Because of our research in oncology, we knew that some of these fatty acids can be used to fight enveloped viruses by disintegrating their lipid membranes.”

Darpan Roy Chowdhury and Anupam DokeniyaDarpan Roy Chowdhury and Anupam Dokeniya

The basic premise was simple—SARS-CoV 2, which causes COVID-19, is an enveloped virus (has a lipid membrane) that can be inactivated by detergents. Free Fatty Acids in mother’s milk can destroy these enveloped viruses via their detergent actions. “Soap also destroys the lipid membrane of these enveloped viruses by the same physical mechanism. This is why it continues to be an effective way to fight the virus because the lipid membrane never mutates,” says Dokeniya.  “We knew this technology could be harnessed to reduce the viral load in the nose and mouth. Our challenge, however, was to identify how best to isolate these fatty acids and formulate a product to administer this,” says Dokeniya, co-founder and CEO of ErasaVir. 

As a starting point, Dokeniya began the process of building a collective of scientists and entrepreneurs to sculpt the idea into reality. With Dr Dino Rotondo, senior lecturer in immunology, Strathclyde Institute of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences (SIPBS), University of Strathclyde, Glasgow UK, joining as co-founder and chief scientific officer; Dr Kumar Bhargava, CEO at Serentrix Therapeutics, a specialty company with focus on ocular pain, coming on board as chief product officer, and Strassenburg Pharmaceuticals agreeing to collaborate on the project, they spent the next 20-odd months researching the technology. During the R&D, the team figured that a spray was the best way forward, as it “could coat most of the mucosa in the nasal and oral cavity, where the viral particles first enter the body”.

Darpan Roy Chowdhury, co-founder and chief operating officer, clarifies that ErasaVir is not a drug. “It’s action is primarily topical or local in the oral and nasal mucosa. It is like the work done by soap, which can kill the virus on your hands, but can’t be used in your nose or mouth—so, we were trying to emulate a similar action here by using a spray, which is safe enough for daily use”

Just like one regularly washes their hands after leaving a public space or touching an item or surface that may be frequently touched by other people, ErasaVir can be sprayed into one’s mouth or nose after coming in contact with another person. “While spraying it, what I am doing is trying to eliminate or at the very least reduce any viral load on the surfaces of the upper respiratory tract,” says Roy Chowdhury. This in turn reduces the viral load going down to the lower respiratory tract, and could also make the user much less infectious to others.

All the ingredients in ErasaVir have been proven to be safe and categorised as GRAS (Generally Recognised as Safe) by the USFDA, and thus, have no adverse side-effects, he adds. “We were early believers in this revolutionary science, because of the solid, underlying scientific rationale. In order to confirm our hypotheses we repeatedly conducted rigorous efficacy testing at a UN-affiliated BSL-3 laboratory. It was important to us that the results speak for themselves.” says Roy Chowdhury. 

ErasaVir is currently available in select chemists across India and retail stores like PharmEasy; a pack of nasal and oral spray costs R500. “The product is not a substitute for vaccination, treatments or other COVID-appropriate behaviour.  It is an additional tool to enable a more uninterrupted life as we live alongside this ‘Forever virus’,” says Dokeniya. Chowdhury adds, “From a vision perspective, I really see us impacting the way people think about their hygiene and personal care. Modern hygiene has been an idea restricted to the external surfaces of the body. 

We see ErasaVir as the beginning of Hygiene 2.0—a concept we will extensively build upon going forward.”

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