Ocala-based company’s drug to be tested as possible coronavirus treatment

AIM Immunotech’s ‘Ampligen’ currently used to treat SARS virus

MARION COUNTY, Fla. – The National Institute of Infectious Diseases in Japan will begin testing for a possible treatment of the coronavirus, which will include a drug made by a company headquartered in Marion County.

Tom Equels is the CEO of AIM Immunotech, a company based out of Marion County with its headquarters located just off Interstate 75. The company develops drugs to treat immune disorders, certain cancers and viral diseases. One of its drugs is set to be considered as a possible treatment for COVID-19.

“You got a period of time before you have the serious symptoms set in. That’s where you would get this type of drug to blunt this infection,” Equels said.

AIM Immunotech's Ampligen drug, currently used to treat SARS, to be tested as possible treatment for coronavirus. (Image: AIM Immunotech)

In a statement to News 6, AIM Immunotech officials said testing and research are being conducted by Hideki Hasegawa, MD, PhD, Director of the NIID’s Influenza Virus Research Center and Director of the World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre for Reference and Research on Influenza, Tokyo and Takeshi Ichinohe, PhD, Department of Pathology at the NIID, Department of Biological Science and Technology, Tokyo University of Science.

“When this new outbreak occurred in China, we recognized it might be very similar to the SARS virus we tested years ago,” Equels said.

[RELATED: Will the 2020 Tokyo Olympics be canceled due to COVID-19? | Walt Disney World theme parks to close through March ]

A Marion County lab is developing a possible treatment for the coronavirus. (Image: AIM Immunotech) (WKMG 2020)

Medical leaders will take a closer look at this drug to see if it's as effective with the coronavirus as it is for SARS.

“We saw in key pathogenic frames that these were highly similar -- almost identical, which means there’s a great likelihood our drug would work in the new virus causing the current pandemic as well,” Equels said. “If someone tests positive, you administer a therapy to blunt the spread of the infection and avoid the more serious consequences.”

Equels told News 6 they’re also working with governments in China, the U.S. and possibly Europe to further test if Ampligen could help in the pandemic.

AIM Immunotech's Ampligen drug, currently used to treat SARS, to be tested as possible treatment for coronavirus. (Image: AIM Immunotech) ( )

"We have to look at China as where we could be if we don't get our act together," Equels said.

It’s not clear when the drug could hit the market.

The news of the testing comes as the number of coronavirus cases in Florida continues to rise. At last check, Florida had 35 resident and non-resident coronavirus patients, according to health officials. No cases have been reported in Marion County.

To keep up with the latest news on the pandemic, subscribe to News 6′s coronavirus newsletter or go to ClickOrlando.com/coronavirus.

About the Author: