RetroMAD1 : New Drug Packs Big Promise

written by Ellen Whyte

A new drug created by Malaysian scientists is helping sick cats – and may be the first step in fighting human viruses like HIV/AIDS


Sabrina Yeap With The Healthy Cats After RetroMAD1 Treatment

Two viruses that every cat lover fears are Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) and Feline leukaemia virus (FeLV).  These viruses only affect cats and cannot be spread to people or other animals.  However, for cats they are deadly.

FIV attacks the immune system.  Like HIV in humans, FIV makes it hard for the cat to fight infections.  Quite often infected cats appear healthy but fall sick more often as time goes by. In between sickness, they appear as healthy as uninfected cats.

FeLV attacks in two ways.  The acute form causes fever, anaemia, loss of appetite and can kill.  This lasts up to 2 weeks.   Those that survive become carriers.

FIV is most often transmitted during fights when one cat bites another.  FeLV is very easily transmitted by contaminated saliva, which means even mutual grooming between infected and non-infected cats is a danger. 

FeLV inoculations have been available for some years; today vets have access to new FIV inoculations.  However, as many cats have not been inoculated, and as both viruses can sometimes take some time to cause illness, there are many cats who are already infected.

In the past cat lovers cared for infected pets as best they could.  Today there is new hope thanks to an experimental drug called RetroMAD1.

A Potential Malaysian Miracle

RetroMAD1 is an experimental recombinant protein biologic antiviral drug.  It's developed and made by BioSatria Sdn. Bhd., a private Malaysian biotech company producing oral-delivery antiviral fusion proteins for the livestock industry.

RetroMAD1 represents a breakthrough in science as it attacks viruses at several different levels.

“Up till now, standard drugs combat viruses by attacking one vulnerable spot,” explains Ung Eng Huan, BioSatria’s Chief Technology Officer.  “But viruses are very smart, and very resilient. They quickly find a way to avoid being killed by the drug.”


Huan and his partner Awang Mohd. Sagaf bin Abu Bakar, Chief Biotechnologist at BioSatria, wanted to develop a broad-spectrum drug that would pack a bigger punch.  At this point even the biggest biotech industry conglomerates in the world weren’t ready to try for this goal, but Huan and Awang decided to attempt the impossible.

“It’s like war,” Huan says.  “We put ourselves in the position of body cells and viruses to figure out a sense of defence and attack.”

After a year, Huan and Awang came up with a drug that worked on four different levels. 

“Viruses work by: entry, where they link onto the cell surface; fusion, where they inject their genetic material into the cell; integration, where they incorporate their genes into the host’s DNA, and finally by translation – the process of hijacking the cells protein factories to make more parts for viral assembly,” Huan explains.  “Our drug blocks the virus at all these points.”

Puchong RetroMAD1 Trials

In tests these drugs have greatly reduced viral counts in mosquito cells infected with Dengue Fever Virus, and in monkey cells infected with Herpes Simplex 2 that causes Genital Herpes in humans.

Cat owners will be interested in RetroMAD1, a tasteless and odourless liquid that fights FIV or FeLV.

In the last year, 14 sick cats with FIV or FeLV have been given the RetroMAD1.  Every single kitty has recovered.

One of the first to try the drug was Sabrina Yeap, co-founder of Friends Furry Farm, a no kill animal rescue sanctuary in Selangor.

“Just before Christmas last year I had 3 very small FIV positive kittens suffering from eye infections, dehydration and diarrhoea,” she recalls.  “They were so incredibly weak that every time I checked on them I was preparing myself to find little dead bodies.”

As there was nothing to lose, Sabrina dosed them all with RetroMAD1

“The effect was almost instant,” she laughs.  “They got stronger, began eating, and the diarrhoea disappeared.  Within a week I knew they were going to make it.”

Today the kittens are fat, happy little cats.  Names Spring, Summer and Autumn, they have a home at Friends Furry Farm.  However, as they are now healthy, they are up for adoption, on condition that they are lifelong indoor cats.

Easy, Simple, Safe

RetroMAD1 is an experimental drug.  However, so far there appear to be no significant side effects. 

Toxicity trials carried out by the University of Malaya showed that there were no adverse effects on rats dosed with 500 times the dosages given to the cats.

“We have created an oral drug because injections automatically mean taking into consideration hygiene, special equipment and other complications,” Huan says.  “We want something simple that can be dropped into food or water.  RetroMAD1 is all that plus it’s odourless and tasteless so your pet won’t even know it’s there.”

“In the short term we will be expanding our trails to puppies with Parvo (CPV2),” says Huan.  “And I’d like to take the testing nationwide too in places like Penang and JB.  In the longer term, Awang Mohammad  Sagaf and I have this big dream – we want to cure some incurable viral diseases in people and animals.”

Who knows?  RetroMAD1 may be the first step.

If you have a sick FIV or feline leukaemia virus (FeLV) kitty, you can ask to sign up for the trials that are taking place in the Klang Valley area.  Contact Dr Tan at Klinik Haiwan dan Surgeri Wawasan at 03 5882 0755 for details.  For more information about Spring, Summer, and Autumn, and their their friends who are not FIV positive, sms Sabrina at 016 631 9018.

About BioSatria

BioSatria is a private Malaysian biotech company producing experimental oral-delivery antiviral fusion proteins for the lifestock industry.

Viruses cause billions of dollars worth of losses annually in both agriculture and aquaculture.  As our world population continues to rise, we cannot afford to compromise livestock production efficiency.

Our aim is to help alleviate world hunger by developing antiviral drugs that target important livestock viruses that reduce food production.

About Ung Eng Huan

Chief Technology Officer

Ung Eng Huan has over 25 years international commercial experience.  He is a Consultant for mariculture biotechnology representing ASEAN in the ASEAN-Republic of Korea joint programme. He is also a Visiting lecturer in biotechnology at the University of Malaya.

Ung Eng Huan is currently the CTO of  BioSatria, Defensia and GS Biotech Sdn Bhds. He has a First Class Honours from the University of London, a Masters with Distinction from the University of Stirling in Aquaculture, and is the winner of the Royal Highland Agricultural Award of Scotland.