A new study shows a product being developed by an Australian biotechnology company, Ena Respiratory, performed well in pre-clinical COVID-19 viral replication tests.
The company's novel nasal treatment, INNA-051, was tested in an animal study led by Public Health England’s (PHE) deputy director, Professor Miles Carroll and published today on biomedical pre-publication research site, medRxiv.
The company said its INNA-051 compound works by stimulating the immune system. By boosting the immune response prior to infection, the ability of the COVID-19 virus to infect the animals and replicate was dramatically reduced.
"The study provides evidence that INNA-051 can be used as a stand-alone method of antiviral preventative therapy, complementary to vaccine programs," said the company in a statement.
“We’ve been amazed with just how effective our treatment has been,” said Ena Respiratory managing director, Dr Christophe Demaison. “By boosting the natural immune response of the ferrets with our treatment, we’ve seen a rapid eradication of the virus.”
“If humans respond in a similar way, the benefits of treatment are two-fold. Individuals exposed to the virus would most likely rapidly eliminate it, with the treatment ensuring that the disease does not progress beyond mild symptoms. This is particularly relevant to vulnerable members of the community. In addition, the rapidity of this response means that the infected individuals are unlikely to pass it on, meaning a swift halt to community transmission.”
The company said it could be ready to test INNA-051 in human trials in approximately four months.
Dr Chris Nave, CEO of the Medical Research Commercialisation Fund and co-founder of Brandon Capital, welcomed the promising results.
“We are doing all we can to support Ena Respiratory and its quest to secure additional investment to accelerate the development and testing of the therapy in humans," he said.
"While a vaccine is ultimately the key solution to combatting COVID-19, governments need to be developing different treatment approaches to ensure they have a range of options, in the event that a vaccine proves elusive or takes longer to develop.”
INNA-051 is a synthetic small molecule and would be self-administered via nasal spray, taken once or twice a week.
“This is a significant development as the world races to find a solution to halt COVID-19 transmission and infection of at risk-populations,” said Professor Roberto Solari a respiratory specialist, advisor to Ena Respiratory and visiting Professor at Imperial College London.
“Most exciting is the ability of INNA-051 to significantly reduce virus levels in the nose and throat, giving hope that this therapy could reduce COVID-19 transmission by infected people, especially those who may be presymptomatic or asymptomatic and thus unaware they are infectious,” said Professor Solari.