UK biotechs Destiny Pharma and SporeGen have entered into a collaborative agreement to develop a new preventative treatment for COVID-19, with support from an £800,000 grant from Innovate UK.

Under the agreement, the parties will co-develop SporeGen’s SPOR-COV – a proprietary formulation of Bacillus bacteria that will be administered nasally as a spray – sharing any costs and commercial returns.

The companies said they plan to complete a preclinical programme for SPOR-COV with the aim of being ready to enter the first human clinical trials within 18 months.

The drug has already been shown by SporeGen to provide complete (100%) protection in preclinical models of influenza virus.

SPOR-COV is different to vaccines in that it utilises the innate immune system with the aim of developing COVID-19 protection a few days after dosing.

As an 'easy to use' first line of defence, it has the potential to reduce COVID-19 infection rates and transmission significantly, and also could be stockpiled “almost indefinitely without the need for cold chain refrigeration” as it is very stable, the firms note.

UK Innovate's £800,000 grant will fund the majority of the £1 million cost of the initial SPOR-COV programme.

The plan is to complete the required pre-clinical safety and efficacy studies and also develop the manufacturing process in the next 18 months and be ready to commence the first human clinical studies thereafter.

“The SPOR-COV platform has already been shown to be effective against pandemic flu by targeting the innate immune system. As such, SPOR-COV potentially has value as a universal system for combatting other viral diseases such as COVID-19. If successful, we foresee a novel approach against COVID-19 and for future, similar pandemics,” said Professor Simon Cutting, chief executive of SporeGen.

“The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has highlighted powerfully the need for innovation in developing new treatments to prevent and manage both viral and bacterial infections and Destiny Pharma remains committed to developing cost-effective products that meet this medical need,” commented Neil Clark, chief executive of Destiny Pharma.