A UK-based biotech company on Monday declared positive "breakthrough" results from a clinical trial of a protein-based treatment for COVID-19, which "greatly" reduced patients requiring intensive care.
Synairgen said its SNG001 formulation uses a protein called interferon beta, which the body produces when it gets a viral infection, and is inhaled directly into the lungs of patients with coronavirus, using a nebuliser, in the hope that it will stimulate an immune response.
"This assessment of SNG001 in COVID-19 patients could signal a major breakthrough in the treatment of hospitalised COVID-19 patients,” said Richard Marsden, CEO of Synairgen, a respiratory drug discovery and development company which originated from research at the University of Southampton.
“We are all delighted with the trial results announced today, which showed that SNG001 greatly reduced the number of hospitalised COVID-19 patients who progressed from ‘requiring oxygen’ to ‘requiring ventilation’. It also showed that patients who received SNG001 were at least twice as likely to recover to the point where their everyday activities were not compromised through having been infected by SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19),” he said.
In addition, SNG001 significantly reduced breathlessness, one of the main symptoms of severe COVID-19, the company said, which is now focused on working with the regulators and other key groups to progress the potential COVID-19 treatment as rapidly as possible.
The trials showed that the average time coronavirus patients spent in hospital was reduced by a third, for those receiving the new drug – down from an average of nine days to six days.
The double-blind trial involved 101 volunteers who had been admitted for treatment at nine UK hospitals for COVID-19 infections. Half of the participants were given the drug, the other half got placebo – an inactive substance.
The results, published by the company under its stock market obligations, have not been published in a peer-reviewed journal as yet.
"The results confirm our belief that interferon beta, a widely known drug that, by injection, has been approved for use in a number of other indications, has huge potential as an inhaled drug to be able to restore the lungs' immune response, enhancing protection, accelerating recovery and countering the impact of SARS-CoV-2 virus,” said Professor Tom Wilkinson, Professor of Respiratory Medicine at the University of Southampton and Trial Chief Investigator.
Professor Stephen Holgate, Medical Research Council Clinical Professor of Immunopharmacology at the University of Southampton and Co-Founder of Synairgen, added, “recognising that SARS-CoV-2 is known to have evolved to evade the initial antiviral response of the lung, our inhaled treatment of giving high local concentrations of interferon beta, a naturally occurring antiviral protein, restores the lung's ability to neutralise the virus, or any mutation of the virus or co-infection with another respiratory virus such as influenza or RSV, as could be encountered in the winter if there is a resurgence of COVID-19.”
Synairgen's drug trial was the template for the Accord programme, a fast-track clinical trial scheme set up by the UK government in April to accelerate the development of new drugs for patients with COVID-19.
The team believes the drug could be even more effective at the early stages of infection.