AstraZeneca has kicked off a mid-stage trial of inhaled interferon beta AZD9412 as a treatment for severe asthma.

The drug, which was originally developed by Synairgen (SNG001), supports the immune system by correcting a deficiency which makes patients vulnerable to respiratory tract viral infections.

The placebo-controlled Phase IIa trial is looking to enrol around 220 asthma patients from countries in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. The primary endpoint is the number of severe exacerbations during the 14 day dosing period, and results are expected early 2017.

Synairgen outlicensed the programme to AZ in June 2014 in a global deal worth up to $232 million plus tiered royalties, enabling the Southampton, UK-based firm to pursue other development avenues - such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder - for its drug.