A north-east life science firm is hoping to half coronavirus deaths by repurposing an experimental drug aimed at prolonging the life of cystic fibrosis patients.
NovaBiotics, which is headed up and founded by Aberdeen immunobiologist Deborah O’Neil, has announced it will “fast-track” tests on the drug Nylexa for use on Covid-19 patients.
It is understood that currently around 50% of coronavirus fatalities are a result of bacterial co-infections with SARS-CoV-2, which causes Covid-19.
But it is hoped the experimental medication would “supercharge” antibiotics to boost their efficacy against difficult to treat and even drug resistant bacteria.
The active ingredient of Nylexa is already in advanced clinical trials. It has proven to be safe and effective in clinical studies carried out across the UK, Italy and the US for the complex bacterial lung infections associated with cystic fibrosis (CF).
The firm says Nylexa could be rapidly re-positioned as a Covid-19 therapy and tested in patients in the second half of 2020, ahead of any vaccine being available.
NovaBiotics says it could begin manufacturing Nylexa in May – and, if approved, could shortly thereafter begin clinical trials on patients currently in hospital with the virus.
Chief executive Ms O’Neil said: “The impact of bacterial infections and antibiotic resistance in Covid-19 is beyond doubt.
“Our strategy to expedite Nylexa’s development to address this aligns 100% with the UK Government’s ‘wave two Covid-19 clinical trials’ strategy to test repurposed experimental therapies already in late stage clinical trials for other indications.
“Whilst ‘wave one’ focused on the potential benefit of repurposed, already licensed antiviral and antimalarial therapies, and whilst vaccine development continues for the longer term, it is critical to develop rapidly deployable strategies to prevent deaths and long term health issues from secondary bacterial infections caused by SARS-CoV-2.
“These infections could still be fatal regardless of antiviral or other experimental treatment.
“Nylexa is low risk, low cost, readily available candidate treatment that could be tested and deployed to combat the coronavirus pandemic very quickly”.
Professor Dilip Nathwani, a consultant physician and emeritus honorary professor of infection at Dundee University, added: “Secondary bacterial infections have been long recognised as an important and devastating cause of mortality in patients with primary viral pneumonia.
“In my 30 years of clinical practice, despite the administration of timely and appropriate antibiotic therapy to cover against these secondary bacterial infections, I have seen a significant number of patients tragically still succumb to the infection.
“The need to consider and test antibiotics that offer alternative and complimentary modes of action are of worthwhile and of critical importance. I believe Nylexa may be such a potential treatment requiring urgent assessment of its efficacy. Its evaluation needs to be now.”