Contract development and manufacturing organisation (CDM) Vectura Group and Inspira Pharmaceuticals, a new UK-based company focused on developing therapies for respiratory and infectious diseases, have teamed up to develop an inhaled formulation of the latter's lead drug candidate for the treatment of COVID-19.

Inspira’s research focuses on proprietary IPX formulations, which are based on processed and purified extracts from a plant source. These extracts contain proteolytic enzymes that have been shown to rapidly inactivate the SARS-CoV-2 virus in vitro. The IPX technology platform has additional potential applications in other lung infections and treatment of biofilms associated with respiratory disease.

Vectura has already undertaken a feasibility study on Inspira’s inhaled IPX formulation candidates with positive results, and under the new agreement will undertake further testing and development work to prepare initially for Phase I clinical studies using its FOX vibrating mesh nebuliser to deliver the IPX formulations directly to the lungs.

“As we move from pandemic to endemic COVID-19 it will be ever more important to have new treatments that are cost effective, easy to distribute and easy to administer,” said Rory McGoldrick, Inspira's chief executive. “We are targeting a treatment that has the potential to be effective at the early phase of infection, to minimise the risk of hospitalisation and reduce the need for ventilatory support in intensive care. We hope that our human clinical trials of IPX formulations will prove as successful as our initial laboratory studies.”

“The work carried out by Inspira demonstrates the potential to develop a highly-effective treatment for COVID-19, and our initial studies show that our FOX nebuliser offers an extremely efficient delivery method,” added Mark Bridgewater, Vectura's chief commercial officer. We are excited to continue supporting Inspira on this lead programme’s development towards the clinic, combining our expertise of formulation and device development with Inspira’s innovative research to add to the treatments available to manage this global pandemic disease.”