The University of Dundee is leading a major new clinical trial of a drug it is hoped may help to prevent the worst ravages of Covid-19.
Researchers from the university’s school of medicine are partnering with global biopharmaceutical company Insmed Incorporated to conduct trials of brensocatib, a drug being developed to treat lung inflammation, in Covid-19 patients.
It is one of a number of studies into the disease to have been given urgent public health research status by the Department of Health and Social Care.
It is also the first Scottish-led drug trial in Covid-19 to take place.
While Covid-19 results in a mild infection in most people, up to 20% of patients develop inflammation of the lungs which can require them to be ventilated.
Though it is caused by a viral infection, research has shown that the body’s own inflammatory response, designed to clear the virus, causes the lung damage that ultimately leads to respiratory failure and death in severe cases.
Insmed will provide funding and clinical drug supply for the STOP-COVID19 (Superiority Trial of Protease inhibition in COVID-19) trial.
The Dundee researchers will explore whether brensocatib can reduce the incidence of acute lung injury and prevent mechanical ventilation.
It is hoped that the treatment will also lead to patients spending fewer days dependent on oxygen and shorter periods of time in hospital, reducing the burden on healthcare systems.
STOP-COVID19 will recruit 300 volunteers from 10 hospitals across the UK, with patients offered the chance to participate immediately after their diagnosis.
Half the group will receive brensocatib in addition to standard hospital care while the other half will receive a placebo. The study is expected to begin enrolment at the start of May.
The trial is being led by James Chalmers, British Lung Foundation professor of respiratory research at the university.
Professor Chalmers is also consultant respiratory physician at Ninewells Hospital, one of the trial sites.
He said: “High rates of patients requiring ventilation and overwhelming intensive care unit capacity has been a major cause of excess deaths around the world and we hope that brensocatib can put a brake on the devastation this disease causes, to literally stop Covid-19 when it begins attacking the lungs.
“The medical community has never faced a more urgent need for treatment than the unprecedented situation we face today with Covid-19.
“Our researchers at the University of Dundee have been studying this kind of lung inflammation for more than 10 years and so are in the perfect position to rapidly intervene in patients to try to prevent the worst outcomes of Covid-19.”
Study investigator and NHS Tayside R+D director Professor Jacob George added: “This is the first Scottish-led drug trial into Covid-19 and it has been prioritised and designated as an urgent public health study.
“Tayside can be justifiably proud of this and we look forward to collaborating with other NHS boards in Scotland to recruit eligible patients onto the trial.”
More information about studies that have been given urgent public health status are available at https://www.nihr.ac.uk/covid-19/.
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