Published studies show potential of Ena Respiratory's INNA-051

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Ena Respiratory says published research on its novel nasal spray therapy, INNA-051, shows it has reduced COVID-19 viral replication by up to 96 per cent in a gold standard ferret study.

INNA-051 is a synthetic small molecule and would be self-administered via a nasal spray, taken once or twice a week.

The results of an animal study conducted by Public Health England (PHE) have been published in EBioMedicine. It is a peer-reviewed, open-access, academic journal published by The Lancet.

Another study, examining rhinovirus infection in human airway cells and animal models, has been published in the European Respiratory Journal. The company said this later study provides insight into the treatment’s mechanism of action and efficacy in cells from people with asthma.

“We’re thrilled to have two such highly-regarded, peer-reviewed journals publish research papers demonstrating the broad-spectrum efficacy of our drug against multiple respiratory viruses, including the COVID-19 and rhinovirus,” said Ena Respiratory managing director Dr Christophe Demaison. “This is an important milestone as we are on track to initiate safety human trials in Australia by end of March 2021, and onwards to making our treatment available to the public.”

Ena Respiratory said its preventative nasal treatment may be used in conjunction with approved vaccines to limit community transmission of the virus and further reduce the risk of disease progression.

“It’s been a remarkable accomplishment of the medical community across the globe to see many vaccines progressed so rapidly but there are still a lot of unknowns about how effective they will be in at-risk populations such as the elderly and those with comorbidities,” said Dr Demaison.

“The emergence of new virus strains remains an ongoing concern. By boosting the natural immune system, we see INNA-051 having a powerful role to play that is complementary to vaccines.”

The INNA-051 compound works by stimulating the innate immune system, the first line of defence against pathogens.

The company said the PHE study showed that by boosting the immune response at the primary site of 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, it said.

“Our hope is that INNA-051 will ensure individuals exposed to the virus are less likely to spread it, as well as prompting an immune response which will limit the virus’s ability to progress beyond mild symptoms,” said Dr Demaison.

“The natural immune response that INNA-051 produces works exceptionally well in minimising the viral replication of COVID-19, and subsequently the risk of community transmission, meaning this is an ideal supplement to vaccines.”

Ena Respiratory raised $11.7 million from Australian investors in October. The company said it is now in discussions with existing and new investors to further accelerate the nasal spray’s clinical development and global distribution.