First COVID-19 patient treated in Noxopharm study

By Jenni Spinner

- Last updated on GMT

(Maksim Tkachenko/iStock via Getty Images Plus)
(Maksim Tkachenko/iStock via Getty Images Plus)

Related tags COVID-19 Coronavirus Cytokines Clinical trial

The clinical-stage drug development company has kicked off testing the experimental anticancer drug Veyonda on severe patients in a Phase I trial.

Australia-based Noxopharm has begun its NOXCOVID-1 study, a Phase I trial testing the potential of Veyonda to treat COVID-19. The study will aim for patients hospitalized with moderate symptoms but at risk of rapid deterioration.

The patient participants at the center of NOXCOVID-1 are hospitalized with moderate lung dysfunction requiring low oxygen support but are at risk of progressing rapidly into severity that calls intensive care and ventilation. According to the company, the progression is being viewed as an inappropriately strong inflammatory reaction known as a cytokine storm by the body’s immune system in response to lung damage caused by the virus.

Noxopharm CEO and executive chairman Graham Kelly told Outsourcing-Pharma that approximately two years ago, researchers at the company were taking a hard look at Veyonda’s potential as a cancer treatment.

We knew about its immuno-oncology actions, but we suspected that another one of its mechanisms, probably contributing in a minor way, was an anti-inflammatory action through a cell signaling system known as the STING pathway. STING is a primitive first-line defense mechanism that alerts the body to damage by infective organisms (e.g., viruses, bacteria) and triggers an inflammatory reaction that effects repair of the tissue damage,​” Kelly told us.

Kelly said Noxopharm contracted with an Australian research laboratory known for its work in this area, and the team confirmed Veyonda was a potent inhibitor of the STING pathway.

That finding coincided earlier this year with the emergence of the pandemic and a growing suspicion that many COVID-19 deaths were due to excessively exuberant STING activation​,” Kelly explained. “On that basis, we are undertaking our current NOXCOVID clinical study​.”

It’s a testament to the skill of our scientific team and our external research collaborators that we have been able to identify the potential application of Veyonda in the treatment of COVID-19 and have been able to use our prior oncology-focused work to address this new and urgent global need​,” said Noxopharm chief medical officer Gisela Mautner. “It is our hope that Veyonda will lessen the severity of COVID-19 and improve the recovery of affected patients worldwide​.’’

The study team plans to enroll up to about 40 patients in Moldovia and Ukraine, with the help of services from contract research organization (CRO) Clinical Accelerator. They anticipate enrollment of NOXCOVID-1 patient participants to be completed before the end of 2020.

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