Gilead has begun testing an inhalable version of remdesivir in a Phase Ia study, to assess its potential as a treatment for COVID-19.

The company said it will assess the safety, tolerability and pharmacokinetics of the inhaled, nebulised formulation of the drug for use in the outpatient setting.

“Delivering remdesivir directly to the primary site of infection with a nebulised, inhaled solution may enable more targeted and accessible administration in non-hospitalised patients and potentially lower systemic exposure to the drug,” the company said in a statement.

The randomised, placebo-controlled trial will enrol around 60 healthy individuals aged 18-45 in the US to form the basis for further clinical study of the inhaled drug, particularly in patients whose disease has not progressed to require hospitalisation.

Additional clinical trials evaluating remdesivir in combination with anti-inflammatory medicines, in vulnerable patient populations and in outpatient settings are ongoing or planned to initiate in the near future, the firm noted.