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17th November 2020 - Why, in the current crisis we still need more effective, proven treatments for COVID-19

Grant Ellis – Director NovaBiotics Ltd

 

The COVID-19 pandemic has now affected over 50m people worldwide, with over 1.25m reported deaths.  This is why we should all welcome the announcements by both Pfizer and BioNTech and Moderna Inc. about the successful conclusion of the trial of their vaccines.

We should not however get carried away, as their headlines of 90% plus effectiveness are an interim analysis and we need to wait for the final safety and efficacy data before drawing any meaningful conclusions.  Indeed, many experts think that the headline figures of 90% plus will fall once all the data is available for review.

 

There are also a number of other questions that need to be answered:

 

  • Most important, how long does the immunity last?
  • What do these vaccines protect against – only mild cases, or moderate and severe as well?
  • Does the vaccine prevent transmission?
  • Are these (‘RNA’) vaccines effective in elderly individuals?

 

In short, even if these vaccines and others that follow do offer a certain level of protection against the virus, they are not, and will not be a complete solution and infected people will still need access to effective treatments. Vaccines will not, unfortunately eradicate COVID-19.

 

There’s much work to be done yet and the BioNTech and Moderna vaccines would not be deemed ‘viable’ if we weren’t in the midst of a public health crisis. They are far from ‘perfect’ and have be to be administered as two doses and stored at ultra-low temperatures (-70/-80 degrees C).

 

We aren’t sure if frequent inoculations would be required to provide an acceptable period of immunity. Will these and other vaccines work against the SARS-CoV2 virus as it continues to mutate? They are the start of the journey and hopefully, in 2 or 3 years time we will have fully optimised vaccines for COVID19 that can be administered once a year and provide protection for at least some of the population.

 

Yet so far there has been only limited success with potential treatments for COVID-19.  Repurposed remdesivir and steroids have some beneficial effects in particular patients, very much dependent on the stage of the disease, One might question with so many vaccines in development and this recent, encouraging early news, why haven’t we yet heard of breakthroughs with one or more new treatments in development?  Has there been enough focus on testing treatments?

 

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there was a single treatment that:

 

  • could stop the infection in its tracks,
  • was anti-inflammatory; controlling the immune system’s response to the infection and stopping it from overreacting dangerously,
  • in cases where patients developed secondary bacterial infections in the lungs could supercharge antibiotics; boosting their efficacy and even,
  • was a repurposed drug; already proven as safe,
  • was easy to make, scalable at the level required to make a difference in the pandemic and was cost effective.

 

Well such a treatment does exist.  It’s called Nylexa®, from the small UK biotech company NovaBiotics Ltd. It’s active ingredients have been safely used in medicines that treat unrelated conditions for over 30 years.

 

NovaBiotics discovered Nylexa’s potential benefits in COVID-19 following a decade of research in difficult to treat, drug-resistant infections, including the complex chest infections and inflammation associated with cystic fibrosis (CF) lung disease. In March they applied for a grant from Innovate UK (representing the government) to start clinical studies. £1m of funding was eventually awarded last month, and the government are now considering whether or not to include Nylexa® on two separate platform clinical studies.

 

Just think where we would be with a treatment such as Nylexa® available to us.  Anyone unlucky enough to get COVID-19 could be potentially be treated immediately, reducing the number of hospital admissions, their progression into intensive care and resultant deaths.

 

Knowing we had an effective way to reduce the severity of COVID-19 would mean that life could return towards normal very quickly as even if we did get infected, the consequences of the infection would be so different than they can be now; a life threatening disease.

 

Today’s and other recent news on vaccine development is encouraging and points to vaccines being a part of the strategy longer term as we learn to live with COVID19.

 

So, whilst it is understandable that vaccines have grabbed the headlines in recent weeks, it is far more likely that life will only return to normal once we have effective treatments to stop COVID -19 being as destructive as it has been thus far.



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