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Somerville Professor and recent alumnus collaborate on Covid-19 treatment

19th May 2020

Professor Daniel Anthony and Dr Bobojon Nazarov are two Somerville luminaries currently working together in a cutting-edge research project seeking to evaluate the effectiveness of Nafamostat Mesilate (brand name: Futhan) in the treatment of COVID-19.

Professor Anthony, who is a Fellow and Tutor in Medicine at Somerville, is serving as scientific lead on the project, which will utilise Nafamostat, an existing medicine for other indications that has previously been shown to prevent the virus from infecting human cells in the laboratory.

Professor Anthony

Dr Bobojon Nazarov, meanwhile, is responsible for conceiving the study after identifying key studies, including the work of Yamamoto et al. (2016), which presented clear evidence that Nafamostat prevented Coronavirus from entering the host cell. Dr Nazarov, who gained his MSc in Pharmacology at Somerville, also recognised that, having been used safely for 35 years as a pancreatitis treatment, Nafamostat also offered the clear advantage over vaccine treatments of being available for immediate use in the fight against COVID-19. As a result, the decision to assemble a team of leading academics and clinicians to drive this initiative was acted upon at once.

The resulting project offers a shining model of collaborative working, having been organised under the leadership of Dr Nazarov’s not-for-profit company Latus Therapeutics and benefiting from a generous donation of Nafamostat from Nichi-Iko Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd., which Dr Nazarov was instrumental in securing. The study is additionally supported by a grant from the medical research charity LifeArc as part of its activity to address the need for new therapies for COVID-19.

Dr Nazarov

Dr Nazarov commented that: “The proposed trial is unique in that we will be using a drug with a proven activity against COVID-19 infection in the laboratory setting combined with a proven clinical safety record. In addition, the drug class to which Nafamostat belongs is the only one shown to block entry of the virus into human cells, combined with a further key downstream benefit on blood clotting preventing one of the lethal effects of this virus. We are therefore hoping the drug can reduce the body’s exposure to viral load, prevent infection, and provide much needed time for the body’s immune system to recognise the virus and destroy it.”

Professor Daniel Anthony additionally noted that: “Our primary objective will be to discover whether treatment with Nafamostat, a serine protease inhibitor, is able to prevent clinical progression of the infection, reduce mortality, and speed recovery of patients.”

This article uses material from a press release by the University of Oxford’s Chemistry Department. The full article can be read here.

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