The University of Birmingham in the UK is set to launch the CATALYST trial this week to evaluate various drugs for the treatment of Covid-19 patients.

CATALYST will involve drugs targeting the most serious symptoms. This mechanism is expected to mitigate disease severity, decreasing the number of patients requiring intensive care admission.

A series of new drugs will be tested in the trial, including existing medicines for cancer and inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.

CATALYST was designed by the Inflammation – Advanced and Cell Therapy Trials Team (I-ACT) at the university’s Cancer Research UK Clinical Trials Unit.

Researchers partnered with University Hospitals Birmingham (UHB) and the Birmingham National Institute for Health Research Biomedical Research Centre (NIHR BRC) to conduct the trial, which will be delivered in alliance with the Oxford and University College London NIHR BRC’s.

Initially, the trial will assess four drug and cellular therapies under a new adaptive trial design intended for rapid investigation of effectiveness. Each arm will enrol up to 40 patients who be given their usual care or one of the trial drugs plus usual care.

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University of Birmingham Cancer Research UK Clinical Trials Unit director Pamela Kearns said: “CATALYST represents a real opportunity to find an effective treatment for patients suffering from Covid-19 infection.

“Covid-19 has led to many other clinical trials, such as those for cancer, to be put on hold which makes the CATALYST trial even more significant. The sooner we are able to more effectively manage this virus, the sooner we can refocus our efforts back to tackling other diseases.”

The trial drugs’ effect will be analysed based on the amount of oxygen in the blood, as well as other disease severity indicators. Drugs that decrease the amount of oxygen needed by the patient and in other severity measures will be recommended for larger ongoing studies in the UK.