BBC Panorama takes first look at new coronavirus drug trial at University Hospital Southampton

BBC kayeflitney

A new treatment for COVID-19 developed by UK scientists and being trialled at University Hospital Southampton will feature on tonight's Panorama programme on BBC One.

The treatment, known as SNG-001, has been shown in trials to stimulate the immune response in the lungs of patients with asthma and chronic lung disease. 

It uses a protein called interferon beta, which our bodies produce when we get a viral infection. Interferon beta is part of the body’s first line of defence against viruses.

In the programme, journalist Justin Rowlatt speaks to Professor Tom Wilkinson, a specialist in respiratory medicine at UHS and the University of Southampton and study lead, and Richard Marsden, CEO of Synairgen, the company behind the development of the drug.

"Our drug is a special formulation of interferon beta that we deliver directly to the airways when the virus is there”, explained Mr Marsden.

"What we've shown in our research is that older people, and people with some chronic conditions, have a poor interferon beta response when there's a virus present. Coronavirus does the same thing."

Prof Wilkinson told the programme: "In an ideal world we would see a significant improvement in the health of the patients receiving the drug, a reduction in those requiring intensive care and ventilation.

"But it is early days to understand that and we will know more when we have the results."

Initial results from the interferon-beta trial are expected by the end of June. If successful, the treatment will face further checks before it can be used routinely on patients.

BBC Panorama: When Will We Be Safe? will air on BBC One this evening (Monday) from 7.30pm. Image, featuring patient Kaye Flitney who is on the trial, is courtesy of BBC Panorama.

Posted on Monday 4 May 2020