Shares in Southampton, England-based Synairgen shot up nearly 30% on largely positive mid-stage trial data for its experimental therapy SNG001, which is designed to help protect asthma patients from respiratory infections.

Respiratory infections, primarily the common cold, can spread to the lung worsening asthma symptoms and potentially leading to pneumonia, hospitalisation and death. In fact, highlighting the scope of the problem, it is estimated that respiratory infections are associated with as much as 80% of asthma-related visits to emergency departments.

Synairgen's Phase II clinical trial involved 134 adult asthma patients with mild-moderate and severe disease. Whilst it did not meet its primary endpoint in the overall population, in a planned analysis of 58 patients with difficult to treat asthma SNG001(inhaled interferon beta) was found to be of significant benefit both in terms of reducing symptom severity and improving lung function.

For one, a 65% reduction in the number of patients experiencing moderate exacerbations while being treated with the drug was observed, as well as a steady improvement in morning peak expiratory flow, which initially dipped in the control group. In addition, the drug was also found to be well-tolerated.

According to Synairgen, the trial is a significant breakthrough, as it is the first that seems to show "by boosting the antiviral defences of the lungs of asthmatics rather than trying to inhibit rapidly evolving viruses, we can limit the adverse effects of viral infection significantly to prevent worsening of asthma symptoms in a high risk group of patients," explained Professor Stephen Holgate CBE, leading international asthma specialist and founder of the company.

'Biggest breakthrough in 20 years'

Leanne Metcalf, assistant director of Research at Asthma UK, was equally positive. "This has the potential to be one of the biggest breakthroughs in asthma treatments in the past 20 years," she said. "We are incredibly excited by the possibilities this research could bring to reduce hospital admissions and deaths as a result of asthma attacks".

Synairgen’s chief executive Richard Marsden adds: "To put SNG001’s potential in context, it is estimated that in the UK alone there are approximately 2.6 million severe asthmatics who would benefit from this treatment".


He also confirmed that the company is in discussions with leading international pharmaceutical companies "and our next step is to form a partnership to accelerate the next phase of the product’s development".

Analysts at finnCap believe the data are "more than strong enough to lead to a licensing deal".