The new treatment will be inhaled by patients through a nebuliser device, Biotech firm Synairgen will trial SNG001 inhaler on 100 people in a race to find a cure.
The UK biotech firm Synairgen is to trial its experimental lung drug in Covid-19 patients, joining the global race to find a treatment for coronavirus.
The company received the green light from UK regulators to conduct a trial of its lead drug SNG001 at NHS trusts across the country.
The inhaled drug has been in development as a treatment for chronic-obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), a severe lung disease, but this has been paused to conduct testing on 100 patients who have been diagnosed with Covid-19.
The medicine is designed to boost the patient’s immune system to help them fight off the virus. It contains interferon beta, a naturally occurring protein, which orchestrates the body’s antiviral responses.
It was identified in a World Health Organization analysis of potential Covid-19 treatments last month as the only phase-two therapy that is inhaled, which means patients can self-administer it, through a small hand-held battery-operated nebulizer.
In the trial, which will start next week, half of the patients will be given the drug and half a placebo. The original research was conducted by the University of Southampton, and University Hospital Southampton will be the lead centre for the trial.
Tom Wilkinson, a professor of respiratory medicine at the University of Southampton and the trial’s chief investigator, said if the test goes well, the drug could be generally made available for Covid-19 patients before the end of the year.
Prof Stephen Holgate, one of the three Southampton University professors who founded Synairgen in 2004, said: “In the absence of a suitable vaccine, increasing the host’s own immunity to enhance protection and virus elimination would seem a logical therapeutic approach.”
The most promising treatments being trialled elsewhere are the US drugmaker AbbVie’s Kaletra, which is a combination of two anti-HIV drugs, and the US drug firm Gilead’s remdesivir, which was tried but failed in Ebola patients in West Africa in 2013 and 2016.
Some Chinese doctors are also trying chloroquine, an antimalarial drug, which is cheap and readily available because it is no longer under patent.
News on the outbreak.
Deaths outside China surpass those inside the country
The total number of people who have died from COVID-19 outside China has overtaken deaths inside the country for the first time since the disease emerged, according to reports by the World Health Organization (WHO) on 16 March. The number of confirmed infections outside China surpassed those inside the country on the same day.
As of 17 March, there were 179,112 confirmed cases of COVID-19 globally, including 81,116 in China. Of the 7,426 deaths from the disease, 3,231 have been in China.
Europe had the largest 24-hour spike in new infections, with 8,507 reported since 16 March, and 428 deaths. Several regions recorded their first cases, including Somalia, Benin, Liberia and the Bahamas.