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Oxford to lead part of new coronavirus treatment trial

Four drugs will be used as part of the Catalyst trial - including one developed by an Oxford company.

It'll use drugs that are on the market or are in late stages of clinical trials to treat hospitalised patients with Covid-19, in the hope they can prevent them from needing intensive care.

The University of Birmingham, which is leading the trial, has revealed that the first drug in the research is Namilumab, produced by the Oxford-based Izana Bioscience.

It's in late-stage trials for use for rheumatoid arthritis and the inflammatory disease ankylosing spondylitis.

The drug targets substances called cytokines which are naturally released by immune cells but can cause damage during an over-reaction of the immune system known as a cytokine storm.

These substances are believed to be a key factor in the excessive and potentially dangerous lung inflammation seen in some Covid-19 patients.

The second drug is Infliximab, developed by Slough-based Celltrion Healthcare UK, and will be tested by experts in Oxford.

It's an anti-tumour necrosis therapy which is currently used to treat inflammatory and autoimmune conditions including rheumatoid arthritis and irritable bowel syndrome.

"We hope that by using a treatment that is already used to treat inflammation in other autoimmune conditions we may be able to manage inflammation associated with COVID-19 early", said Sir Marc Feldmann, Professor of Immunology at the University of Oxford.

"The study will recruit across Birmingham and Oxford initially but we expect that other centres will join the study soon. We are collaborating closely with Birmingham on the plans for analysis of complex biomarkers.

"We believe these will provide important mechanistic insights into the drugs in the study and are an important aspect of the clinical and scientific value of this study."

The other two drugs to be used in the trial will be announced at a later date.

Researchers hope that by targeting some of the most serious symptoms of Covid-19, the severity of the disease could be reduced leading to a fall in deaths.

Dr Ben Fisher, co-clinical investigator of the Catalyst trial, said: "Emerging evidence is demonstrating a critical role for anti-inflammatory drugs in the cytokine storm associated with severe Covid-19 infection.

"In the Catalyst study, we hope to show with a single dose of these kinds of drugs in hospitalised patients that we are able to delay or prevent the rapid deterioration into intensive care and requirement for invasive ventilation in this critical patient group."

Up to 40 Covid-19 patients will be recruited to each part of the trial and will be randomly selected to either receive standard treatment alone or treatment with the addition of one of the four drugs.

The trial has been designed by the inflammation - advanced and cell therapy trials Team at the University of Birmingham's Cancer Research UK clinical trials unit.

In addition to the team at the university, the trial is being conducted with University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, as well as teams from Oxford University and University College London.

Recruitment for patients has started in Oxford and Birmingham.

If a drug is found to be successful, the trial will be expanded for further testing on a national level.




PIC: Blood sample by Susan G. KomenFlickr

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