UHB patients take part in promising coronavirus drug trial

Unrecognizable female nurse holds a pediatric nebulizer. The nurse is wearing scrubs and a stethoscope.

A trial testing a drug known as SNG001 has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of patients who have COVID-19 developing severe disease, early results show.

The Phase II SNG001 trial recruited 101 patients across the country, with 17 patients taking part at University Hospitals Birmingham, making the Trust the third highest recruiter nationally.

Developed by Synairgen, a company closely affiliated to the University of Southampton, the trial saw patients either given a special formulation of a naturally occurring protein, interferon beta 1a (IFN beta), or a placebo.

IFN beta reduced the odds of patients developing severe disease by 79%, and patients who received the drug were also likely to be discharged from hospital more quickly than patients who received the placebo.

Dr Davinder Dosanjh, Consultant Respiratory Physician and trial lead at UHB, said: “The early results are incredibly encouraging.

“In respiratory medicine, we’ve known for some time that interferon beta is important in the immune response in the lungs and though these are preliminary results from a relatively small study, it indicates that giving interferon beta to patients may improve protection and speed up recovery from COVID-19-related illness.”

IFN beta was given to patients by nebuliser, allowing it to be inhaled directly into the lungs. Previous studies involving patients with asthma have shown that the drug improves how well the lung works for patients with a variety of respiratory illnesses, including other viruses such as the common cold and the flu.

The SNG001 trial finished recruitment in May, with further analysis of the results expected over the next few weeks.

Richard Marsden, CEO of Synairgen, said: We are all delighted with the trial results recently announced.

“This assessment of SNG001 in COVID-19 patients could signal a major breakthrough in the treatment of hospitalised COVID-19 patients.”