Somerville researchers to assist trial of new Covid-19 drug

Wednesday 24th June

Four Somervillian medical researchers are at the forefront of efforts to pioneer a new effective treatment for Covid-19 in a drug trial which began this month.

Professor Daniel Anthony (Fellow in Medicine), will act as scientific lead for a clinical trial of the drug camostat as a potential new coronavirus treatment. Somervillians Dr Bobojon Nazarov, Dr Suzie Anthony (lecturer in Medicine) and Dr Emma Ladd (2007, Medicine) will also lend their efforts to the project.

The study, funded by a partnership between the charity LifeArc’s Centre for Drug Development (CDD), Latus Therapeutics and the University of Edinburgh, will investigate whether camostat could help control symptoms of the virus and prevent hospitalisation.

The drug has been shown in the lab to prevent COVID-19 from entering human cells and is already licensed for use in Japan and South Korea. If successful, it could be quickly manufactured and used to treat people with COVID-19.

The fact that it is already approved also allowed camostat to proceed immediately to a Phase III clinical trial, where it will be compared against standard coronavirus treatment.

“We believe [camostat] could be used to reduce the severity of COVID-19 infection, providing much needed time for the body’s immune system to recognise the virus and destroy it. Unlike finding a vaccine, this drug could be used quickly to help people recover from COVID-19,” said Dr Nazarov, founder of Latus and a Somervillian.

Almost half of UK COVID-19 patients requiring critical care have died in hospital so far, highlighting the urgent need for new treatment options alongside the development of a successful vaccine. The trial will take place in the community, recruiting people with symptoms of COVID-19 before they require hospital care. Those receiving treatment will take daily doses of the tablet and all patients will be assessed daily by telephone and self-report their temperature and blood oxygen levels.

“We’re seeing the impact of COVID-19 on cancer patients throughout the country and we have the skills at Cancer Research UK to assist the national effort in helping to beat this virus, and support from LifeArc is critical to this new trial,” noted Iain Foulkes, executive director of research and innovation at Cancer Research UK.

“The charity’s Centre for Drug Development has a strong track record in setting up trials quickly, which is a testament to our sector leading ways of working. The team have shown that in these uncertain times they’ve not only managed to continue treatment for all cancer patients on their Phase I trials, but also excelled at this challenge and lent their expertise to others in need. Because we know that the sooner we can find ways to minimise the impact of COVID-19, the more quickly we can more fully return to our life saving cancer research.”

Professor Daniel Anthony

Dr Bobojon Nazarov

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