An experimental Covid-19 treatment that is delivered directly to the lungs via a nebulizer reduced the risk of mortality and the need for mechanical ventilation in a phase II trial.
In the trial, the lead candidate of UK-based biotech Synairgen drove down by 79% the risk of severe disease symptoms such as requiring mechanical ventilation in hospitalized Covid-19 patients.
Among a total of 101 test subjects, the average discharge time of those treated with the drug was six days, down 33% from the average of nine days that it took for members of the placebo group to recover. None of the patients treated with the candidate died, compared to three members of the control group who succumbed to the illness.
Discussions with the UK regulatory authorities continue, a company representative told me. With a stock price skyrocketing by more than 400% since the results came out, Synairgen expects its product to fully roll out in the autumn and winter.
Synairgen’s drug is an inhaled formulation of a drug licensed for use in multiple sclerosis called interferon beta. Interferons are versatile cellular signaling proteins that are being adapted to treat conditions ranging from viral infections such as Covid-19 to cancer and degenerative disease.
Synairgen, which grew out of the research of three professors at the University of Southampton in 2004, has been studying the protein interferon beta for years as a candidate for the treatment of respiratory conditions such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Those conditions are often worsened by seasonal viruses that the drug is designed to block.
Additionally, the inhaled delivery of Synairgen’s antiviral agent allows it to be administered outside the hospital, at an early stage of the disease. Those are often the lighter cases, before symptoms progress to the point that a patient requires hospitalization.
“I predict the type 1 and 3 interferons will emerge as important therapeutics to treat Covid-19 patients,” Warner Greene, virologist at University of California, San Francisco, told me. “Again, these agents are best used early in infection before people require hospitalization, when the viral phase of the illness predominates.”
The trial results came amid a flurry of recent news regarding Covid-19 treatments and vaccines. On Tuesday, a Dutch study showed that a widely available rheumatism drug that suppresses the immune system lowered hospital mortality by 65%. Also this week, two Covid-19 vaccines developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford and by Pfizer and BioNTech showed promising interim clinical results in phase I, while Imperial College London reported that its own Covid-19 vaccine has moved into the phase II part of its phase I/II trial.
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