Inhaled drug prevents COVID-19 patients getting worse in Southampton trial

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Southampton researchers, in partnership with Synairgen, have shown COVID-19 patients who took inhaled interferon-β were less likely to develop severe disease and more likely to recover.

Treatment with the inhaled anti-viral drug SNG001 reduced the odds of patients hospitalised with COVID-19 developing severe disease by 79% compared to those who had a placebo treatment.

The trial, which looked at 101 patients from nine UK hospitals, found patients who received the drug had reduced breathlessness and were more than twice as likely to recover during the study.

Professor Tom Wilkinson, Professor of Respiratory Medicine at the University of Southampton and Trial Chief Investigator, commented: "We are delighted with the positive data produced from this trial, which is the result of a momentous coordinated effort from Synairgen, the University of Southampton, University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust and the highly expert research teams across the NIHR network and regulatory bodies in the UK.

“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 lung’s immune response, enhancing protection, accelerating recovery and countering the impact of SARS-CoV-2 virus.”

Protecting the lungs

SNG001 is an inhaled interferon-β, is a protein that occurs naturally in the body with antiviral properties, delivered via a nebuliser – a machine that helps you to breathe in the drug as a fine mist.

There is evidence that older people and people with some chronic health conditions have poorer interferon-β responses, and also that the virus that causes COVID-19 suppresses interferon-β production by cells in the body.

The treatment is thought to help prevent COVID-19 getting worse by boosting the lungs’ antiviral defences and preventing damage to the lungs caused by the virus.

The trial was led by Professor Tom Wilkinson in collaboration with Synairgen, a respiratory drug discovery and development company founded by the University of Southampton professors Stephen Holgate, Donna Davies and Ratko Djukanovic.

Richard Marsden, CEO of Synairgen, said: "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.”

“In addition, SNG001 has significantly reduced breathlessness, one of the main symptoms of severe COVID-19. This assessment of SNG001 in COVID-19 patients could signal a major breakthrough in the treatment of hospitalised COVID-19 patients.”

“Our efforts are now focused on working with the regulators and other key groups to progress this potential COVID-19 treatment as rapidly as possible."

Volunteers needed

This trial is run in two parts. These preliminary results came from the part looking at treatment in patients hospitalised with COVID-19.

The other part of the trial, conducted at home, is looking for older people and those with pre-existing medical conditions who have developed COVID-19 symptoms in the last three days.

Find out more about this part of the trial and how to take part:

Posted on Monday 20 July 2020