Oxford biopharma rolls out treatment trials to delay or prevent COVID-19


Oxford biopharmaceutical company, Izana Bioscience, which is developing a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis says it may be possible to repurpose its treatment to help patients with rapidly worsening COVID-19.

Dr Someit Sidhu, Chief Executive and Co-founder of Izana Bioscience explained that there is a small but significant group of Coronavirus patients that go on to form an overactive immune response to the initial viral infection. It is these patients who appear to deteriorate rapidly and are admitted to hospital and may need to go on ventilators. Izana Bioscience is aiming to add a tool into the armoury of the clinical team treating the patient. The drug being trialled could have the potential to delay, or prevent, the rapid deterioration caused by a patient’s overactive immune system.

If, in the most severe cases, patients were treated with drugs that suppressed their immune responses, it could just save their lives.

The company has initiated a two-centre compassionate use study involving namilumab (IZN-101) in the treatment of patients with rapidly worsening COVID-19. The study, taking place in Bergamo and Milan, Italy is being carried out in cooperation with the Humanitas research group, under the leadership of Professor Carlo Selmi, head of the Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology Unit at Humanitas Research Hospital, the Milan university dedicated to the Life Sciences in Milan.

Namilumab is Izana Bioscience’s phase III-ready, fully human monoclonal antibody therapy currently in late-stage clinical development for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis.

The compassionate use programme will gather data from hospitalised, rapidly worsening COVID-19 patients, and has the overall objective of treating them before they are admitted to intensive care or require ventilation.

It also aims to support namilumab’s future development for the treatment of COVID-19, and discussions with global regulatory authorities, including the UK, are in progress.

He said: “We are very pleased to be supporting this programme with our anti-GM-CSF mAb, namilumab, for the potential treatment of critically-ill COVID-19 patients. The role of GM-CSF in immunemediated diseases is backed by a strong body of evidence and our growing understanding of COVID-19. Evidence suggests that anti GM-CSF therapy has the potential to change the way patients’ immune systems respond to the virus, and therefore to reduce dangerous inflammation and support recovery.”

A number of patients are undergoing COVID-19 treatment at Humanitas and those that are eligible will be entered into the compassionate use programme with namilumab in accordance with local regulations.