Privately-held biopharma Exvastat (Ireland) Ltd has won a 3.6 million euro grant from the Innovative Medicines Initiative following its call for developers to repurpose imatinib for the treatment of Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) induced by COVID-19.
Under the award, Exvastat will collaborate with Vrije Universitat, Amsterdam Medical Center, KABS (Canada) and Simbec-Orion to produce a reformulated version of the drug and test it in critically ill COVID-19 patients.
“The coronavirus pandemic has focussed attention on ARDS as a very serious condition with a high mortality rate and for which there are currently no approved therapies, even though it causes more fatalities every year than breast or prostate cancer,” said Exvastat's chief executive David Cavalla.
“We are using a repurposing strategy backed by strong intellectual property and good preclinical as well as human validation of the effect of the drug to reduce pulmonary oedema; we now intend to reformulate and fast-track clinical development for this serious condition.”
The trial will investigate the potential benefit to COVID-19 patients who lack any approved therapeutic options and enter intensive care, 'the critical juncture of maximum stress on healthcare resources'.
The trial is expected to enroll 110 COVID-19 patients following a four- to six-month reformulation programme, the firm noted.
Unlike other antivirals, imatinib inhibits the host response, thus reducing the pulmonary oedema that linked with mortality in all forms of ARDS, 'and is therefore anticipated to be a robust mechanism against viral mutations'.