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Inhaled drug for COVID-19 shows positive results

Interferon beta website story

A trial of an inhaled antiviral drug for COVID-19 has shown positive results.

The study showed that hospitalised COVID-19 patients on nebulised interferon beta recovered quicker and that the drug was safe.

The new treatment, a protein called interferon beta or SNG001, has been developed by the UK biotech company Synairgen and a team of scientists at the University of Southampton.

Interferon beta, produced naturally by the body when it gets a viral infection, is inhaled directly into the lungs of patients with coronavirus using a nebuliser, with the aim of reducing viral load and stimulating an immune response.

Results from the phase 2 trial have been published in the Lancet Respiratory Medicine journal.

The trial is led by the Oxford BRC’s Professor Ling-Pei Ho, and locally by Professors Naj Rahman, the LCRN’s respiratory lead, and Duncan Richards. Eight patients took part in the national trial, at Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital.

A phase 3 trial is now expected to involve 900 participants at up to 20 NHS sites.

Professor Tom Wilkinson, Professor of Respiratory Medicine at the University of Southampton and Lead Author, said: “The results confirm our belief that interferon beta, a widely known drug approved for use in its injectable form for other indications, may have the potential as an inhaled drug to restore the lung’s immune response and accelerate recovery from COVID-19.

“This drug provides high, local concentrations of the immune protein which boosts lung defences rather than targeting specific viral mechanisms. This might carry additional advantages of treating COVID-19 when it occurs alongside infection by another respiratory virus such as influenza or Respiratory Syncytial Virus that may well be encountered in the winter months.”

The double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled phase 2 trial assessed the efficacy and safety of inhaled SNG001 as a therapy for patients hospitalised with COVID-19. Patients were randomised to receive SNG001 or placebo by inhalation via a mouthpiece once daily for 14 days.

SNG001 was shown to be well tolerated and patients who received the drug had greater odds of improvement and recovered more rapidly. Patients receiving SNG001 had greater odds of improvement and were more likely to recover to “no limitation of activity” during treatment.

There were three deaths in the placebo group and none in the SNG001 group.