Southampton, UK-headquartered company Synairgen has treated the first patient in the UK as part of a global Phase III trial evaluating its inhaled COVID-19 treatment SNG001 in hospitalised patients.

SNG001 is an inhaled formulation of interferon beta-1a, a naturally occuring protein which is believed to kickstart the body’s antiviral responses.

Synairgen previously appointed Parexel Biotech to help conduct the large-scale trial, with a number of UK sites having now been initiated. Additional sites in the US and the EU are now expected to follow.

The trial – called SG018 – is being conducted in around 20 countries and will seek to enrol a total of 610 COVID-19 patients who require supplemental oxygen.

“We need treatments as well as vaccines to fight highly pathogenic viruses such as SARS-CoV-2. Development of treatments like ours will remain necessary in cases where vaccines are not effective, for those who do not get vaccinated, and in case the virus mutates to the point where vaccines become less effective,” said Richard Marsden, chief executive office of Synairgen.

“We believe this trial presents an opportunity for a significant UK scientific breakthrough and, if given the right support, our drug could rapidly assist with the global crisis,” he added.

The UK speciality drug discovery company is also running an ongoing Phase II trial of SNG001 in non-hospitalised ‘at risk’ COVID-19 patients.

Synairgen previously announced preliminary results for SNG001 in hospitalised COVID-19 patients in July 2020.

The risk of developing severe disease (requiring ventilation or resulting in death) during the treatment period (day one to day 16) in this study was significantly cut by 79% for patients receiving SNG001 compared to patients who received placebo.

Data also showed that patients who received SNG001 were more than twice as likely to recover over the course of the treatment period compared to those receiving placebo, while the measure of breathlessness was “markedly reduced” in patients who received the drug compared to those in the control arm.