A potentially life-saving new coronavirus treatment is to be trialled in Dundee.
When Covid-19 causes severe lung damage around one third of patients die and it is hoped the new drug will prevent this.
A clinical trial led by Dundee University will be tested in Ninewells Hospital to show whether the anti-inflammatory medication will prevent acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) which occurs in 10% of hospitalised coronavirus patients.
There is currently no drug for ARDS, which causes lung damage, leading to patients requiring ventilation treatment in intensive care until the organs begin to heal.
Ventilators have been in high demand during the pandemic and finding enough of the equipment has been one of the biggest strains on the NHS.
Researchers from Dundee University’s School of Medicine are working with drug development company Evgen Pharma to test the medication, known as SFX-01, on coronavirus patients.
James Chalmers, British Lung Foundation Professor of respiratory research at the university, said: “SFX-01 is an anti-inflammatory medication that we believe may have the potential to reduce some of the worst outcomes of covid-19.
“The body defends itself against inflammatory and oxidative stress by increasing levels of chemical called Nrf2. SFX-01 activates the Nrf2 system and puts it into overdrive to enhance defences against inflammatory damage.
“There is evidence that Nrf2 activation can reduce the severity of acute lung injury and ARDS.”
If successful, the drug would reduce the need for ventilation, meaning fewer patients needing intensive care, reducing the strain on the NHS.
The study, funded by medical research charity LifeArc, will recruit up to 300 volunteers from hospitals across the UK, including Ninewells, with patients offered the chance to take part in the trial immediately after a corona virus diagnoses.
Half of the group will receive the trial drug, as well as standard hospital care, while the other half will receive a placebo.
Results are expected by the end of the year.
Barry Clare, chairman of Evgen Pharma, said: “We have great respect for the clinical and research staff at Dundee and are delighted to be supporting the university in this trial.
“We are excited at the opportunity to test whether an Nrf2 activator such as SFX-01 may have a role in helping the recovery of Covid-19 patients.”
In April, the School of Medicine teamed up with global pharmaceutical company Insmed Incorporated to test another anti-inflammatory drug to be tested on coronavirus patients in Ninewells.
The same researchers have also secured £4 million to develop drugs to tackle coronavirus and similar future diseases which will prevent the virus itself, compared to reducing its most severe symptoms as it is hoped the anti-inflammatory trial will achieve.
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