The China Food and Drug Administration (CFDA) is considering an application for clinical testing of the antimalarial artemisinin in treating lupus.
The application by the team led by pharmacologist and Nobel Prize laureate Tu Youyou has reached the final stages of review, a CFDA source confirmed on Feb 2.
The discovery of artemisinin, widely used in the fight against malaria, enabled Tu to win the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.
Tu and her colleagues have been working on treatment of autoimmune diseases with artemisinin for the past decade, with promising lab results on lupus. If the CFDA permit is issued, her team will begin large-scale clinical testing.
In May last year, a team from Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica obtained a permit for similar tests of a water-soluble artemisinin derivative to treat lupus.
In a meeting with Li Bin, minister in charge of the National Health and Family Planning Commission, on Monday, Tu suggested health departments spend more on artemisinin research, which, she believes, has great potential in the treatment of a range of conditions.
Lupus, or systemic lupus erythematosus, is an autoimmune disorder in which the body attacks its own tissue and organs and can damage the joints, kidneys, heart, lungs, brain and blood. Traditional therapy for the potentially fatal ailment is a combination of glucocorticoids and immunosuppressives which themselves can damage patients’ immune systems.