A SCOTTISH biotechnology firm is seeking urgent funding after announcing the discovery of two separate novel treatments for Covid-19 patients before they are put on ventilators.
ILC Therapeutics are seeking £4m to accelerate safety studies and clinical trials and have patented the new Interferon-Alpha subtype, called Interferon Alpha 14.
This new treatment can be administered to patients through injection and inhalation; hoping that the natural treatment could prevent Covid-19 induced Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS), which would mean that a considerable number of patients may no longer need to be on a ventilator as oxygen is unable to get to the lungs.
Interferon Alpha 14 is the most potent antiviral interferon that exists and requires very small doses for treatment.
It could also treat Covid-19 by boosting the body’s Natural Killer cells (NK cells) which fight the virus and prevent an immune overreaction that can cause fatal damage to the lungs, known as a Cytokine Storm.
This would prevent the onset of ARDS which remains the leading cause of Covid-19 fatalities, and also drastically reduce the need for ventilators.
In addition to its interferon project, the company is working with Professor Shoumo Bhattacharya at the University of Oxford to develop therapeutic Evasins.
These are molecules derived from ticks that can extinguish a Cytokine Storm in the body once it has already advanced – much like using a fire extinguisher on a flash flame.
This would give Covid-19 patients who have already developed ARDS a much higher chance of survival and recovery.
Professor Bhattacharya, who is the Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine and BHF Chair at the University of Oxford said: “Evasins have proven pre-clinical efficacy against chemokines, which are important components of cytokine storms, and I am excited that their potential for managing Covid-10 cytokine storms will be studied.”
The two treatments could constitute an early stage and late stage treatment option for all Covid-19 patients and offers the prospect of many severe cases of Covid-19 making a good recovery.
The company has confirmed that Dr Alan Walker has agreed to become CEO to lead and streamline the development of the new treatments. Dr Walker has over 50 years’ experience in the life science sector. He is the former CEO of Internis and Ryboquin and spent 28 years at Warner Lambert.
Dr Walker added: “I am delighted at the prospect of joining this ambitious company at a crucial time in the fight against Covid-19. It is remarkable that a small, biotech start-up of this size would have discovered not one but two novel treatment methods, and I want to help charter the course as we hopefully bring these treatments to clinical trials fast and work to save lives.
“There has been much talk within the scientific community of Interferon Alpha 2, but this is not an effective treatment method and frankly has stalled further interferon research by decades. ILCT’s Interferon Alpha 14 could prevent the need for patients to be put on ventilators by boosting their innate immune systems as the virus progresses. We have seen that few patients survive once they are put on ventilators, so the quicker we can develop this treatment in a safe and scalable way, the better.”