A new nasal treatment developed to boost the natural human immune system to prevent the common cold has proved extremely successful in fighting coronavirus.
The treatment, which is a nasal spray administered once or twice a week, was found to reduce viral replication by up to 96% in research on animals published this morning.
The product is called INNA-051 and is being developed by Australian biotech company, Ena Respiratory, in collaboration with Public Health England.
Dr Christophe Demaison, Ena Respiratory managing director, said: ‘We’ve been amazed with just how effective our treatment has been.
‘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 INNA-051 spray works by stimulating the innate immune system, the first line of defence against the invasion of pathogens into the body.
By boosting the immune response prior to infection, the ability of Covid-19 to infect the ferrets in the study 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.
Ena Respiratory has raised $11.7 million (Australian dollars) from investors and, subject to successful toxicity studies and regulatory approval, the company could be ready to test it on humans in less than four months.
Support in developing the new treatment has been led from the Australian Medical Research Commercialisation Fund, Australia’s largest life science investment fund.
The company is urgently seeking additional funding to accelerate the nasal spray’s development and distribution across the world.
Dr Chris Nave, chief executive of the fund, said: ‘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.
‘While a vaccine is ultimately the key solution to combating 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 was in development before the outbreak of Covid-19 to promote resistance towards broader respiratory viral epidemics.
Unlike vaccines which are targeted to a specific strain, this spray is designed to be effective for all types of respiratory infections.
Dr Chris Smith, Ena Respiratory board director, said: ‘Our nasal treatment has amazing potential for combating Covid-19 and future pandemics.
‘We know that vaccinations are often the most attractive approach in combating respiratory virus epidemics, but this method often comes with challenges as vaccines trigger a specific response in the adaptive immune system which might not be effective against future mutations of a virus.
‘INNA-051 utilises the non-specific innate immune response meaning it is effective against a broad spectrum of viruses.’
The authors of the study include scientists from Public Health England, Ena Respiratory, and leading Australian research organisations, the Hunter Medical Research Institute, Newcastle and the University of Melbourne.