Pharma major Zydus Cadila said on Monday its biological therapy Pegylated Interferon alpha-2b can emerge as one of the pathways to treat COVID-19.
The treatment has emerged after the publication of two non-peer reviewed research articles at bioRxiv and medRxiv, the COVID-19 pre-print servers hosted by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.
The first one by the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston showed evidence of a direct anti-viral effect of Interferon alpha against novel coronavirus in vitro. The study demonstrated around 10,000 fold reduction in virus titre in cells that were pre-treated with Interferon alpha 48 hours earlier.
The second by a group of universities in China, Australia and Canada retrospectively analysed 77 moderate COVID-19 subjects in Wuhan and observed that those who received Interferon alpha-2b showed a significant reduction in the duration of virus shedding period and even in levels of the inflammatory cytokine IL-6.
"This suggests that if a long-acting molecule like Pegylated Interferon alpha is given early on in the infection, the patient suffering from COVID 19 will have a significant benefit as the viral load is reduced, lesser IL-6 is produced and virus eliminating specific immune response is generated," Zydus said in a statement.
Interferon alpha-2b has been used in the treatment of COVID-19 in China and Cuba and is a part of treatment guidelines of the Chinese Government. Zydus has been commercially manufacturing Pegylated Interferon alpha-2b under the brand name PegiHep since 2011 for the treatment of Hepatitis B and C with 1.5 lakh doses being administered. PegiHep is not yet licensed or approved for the treatment of COVID-19.
Sharvil Patel, Managing Director of Cadila Healthcare Ltd, said: "At this juncture, as the healthcare fraternity the world over, is exploring options for a safe and efficacious treatment to combat COVID-19, Pegylated Interferon alpha emerges as one such possibility with its potential to reduce virus titres when given earlier in the disease and offering better clinical outcomes."
He said the company is working with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and has opened an investigational new drug (IND) filing for Pegylated Interferon alpha-2b for the treatment of COVID-19.
"We are also working with the Department of Biotechnology to investigate the role of Pegylated Interferon alpha-2b for COVID-19 and are planning to undertake clinical trials for this," said Patel in a statement.
Additionally, Zydus is already manufacturing Hydroxychloroquine which has been found to be effective in treating patients suffering from COVID-19.
The group is also working on an accelerated vaccine development programme which is currently in the animal testing stage and if the results are successful it should enter clinical studies in the second quarter of this financial year.
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