Synairgen is moving from the treatment of respiratory viral infections in patients with asthma to those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) with its inhaled interferon beta investigative therapy SNG001.
The pharmaceutical company is planning a two-part trial of SNG001 to treat viral infections in COPD patients to take place this winter.
Interferon beta is a naturally occurring antiviral substance produced in the body. Viruses, not bacteria, cause the common cold and flu, among other respiratory infections, and antibiotics are useless for fighting viral infections. But interferon beta is one of the body’s natural defenses against viral infections.
COPD exacerbations (when symptoms become aggravated) often are caused by respiratory infections, including those caused by viruses. Experts say there is a 50 percent risk that a cold will cause exacerbations of COPD, resulting in a high number of hospitalizations.
The trials showed that SNG001 boosts antiviral responses in the lungs, improves lung function and, in more difficult-to-treat patients, provides better asthma control during cold infections.
Now that rapid tests are available to detect respiratory viral infections, it’s feasible to market SNG001 for the treatment of COPD patients with these infections.
“We have long been conscious that COPD is the key target market for a broad-spectrum antiviral such as SNG001,” Richard Marsden, CEO of of Synairgen, said in a press release. “Until recently, the difficulties of patient selection and the associated cost of the required trials made it prohibitively expensive to pursue.
“The fact that high viral exacerbation rates are now evident, combined with the launch of an effective diagnostic for viral infections, means that a COPD program is now both highly attractive and economically viable,” he said.
Professor Tom Wilkinson, PhD, chief investigator for the upcoming COPD trial, said the effect that COPD has on the lives of millions of patients is one of the “major unmet clinical problems of modern medicine. The problem of exacerbations of COPD — when patients become acutely unwell — is a particular issue and leads to many thousands of admissions to hospital every year, many more than other common respiratory diseases such as asthma.
“A key cause of these exacerbations is viral infections such as the common cold, and currently we have little or no effective treatments to limit the effects of these pathogens,” Wilkinson said.
“Our own work in Southampton has established the exact nature of the infections which trigger exacerbations. This clinical trial of a new therapy is an important step forward in exploring better treatments for these important events,” he added.