The preliminary results of a clinical trial supported by NIHR Oxford BRC researchers have suggested that a new treatment for COVID-19 dramatically reduces the number of patients needing intensive care.
The treatment, a protein called interferon beta, 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.
The initial findings suggest the treatment cuts the chances of a hospitalised COVID-19 patient developing severe disease by 79%.
The trial has been supported by the NIHR Respiratory Translational Research Collaboration (R-TRC), led by the Oxford BRC’s Prof Ling-Pei Ho, and locally by Profs Naj Rahman and Duncan Richards.
At the outset of the COVID-19 emergency, the R-TRC focused its efforts on early phase therapeutic trials to identify new and repurposed drugs to reduce mortality in hospitalised COVID-19 patients. This Synairgen study, its flagship trial, paved the way for other phase 2 studies.
Prof Ho (pictured left) said: “This randomised placebo-controlled trial of nebulised interferon beta for hospitalised COVID-19 patients was the first phase 2 COVID-19 clinical trial to commence in the UK and the first to be completed, capturing the crest of the pandemic.
“It recruited its 101 patients target in nine weeks, and collected more than 500 blood samples and swabs. The study took 11 weeks from set up to last patient recruitment, a staggering and unprecedented pace. This is a testament to the ability of the R-TRC members like Oxford BRC to help set up, and deliver complex multi-centre phase 2 studies when it is most urgently needed for patients.”