The Universities of Birmingham and Oxford in the UK have partnered with Izana Bioscience and Celltrion Healthcare for the CATALYST clinical trial, which is assessing drug candidates to treat Covid-19 in hospitalised patients.

CATALYST is being performed in alliance with University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust (UHB) and the Birmingham National Institute for Health Research Biomedical Research Centre (NIHR BRC).

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Izana Bioscience will provide its drug candidate, Namilumab (IZN-101), as the first of four potential treatments to be evaluate in the trial.

Namilumab is a fully human monoclonal antibody currently in late-stage trials for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis. It acts on granulocyte-macrophage colony stimulating factor (GM-CSF), which is naturally produced by immune cells in the body.

At abnormal levels, GM-CSF is believed to result in the excessive and dangerous lung inflammation observed in Covid-19 patients.

Celltrion Healthcare UK will provide its anti-tumour necrosis factor (TNF) therapy, Infliximab (CT-P13), which binds to a protein involved in inflammation.

Under the brand name Remsima, Infliximab is indicated to treat inflammatory conditions, including eight autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis and irritable bowel syndrome.

These drugs are expected to decrease the severity of the disease, reducing the number of patients being admitted to intensive care and virus-related deaths.

CATALYST trial co-clinical investigator Dr Ben Fisher said: “In the CATALYST study we hope to show with a single dose of these kinds of drugs in hospitalised patients that we are able to delay or prevent the rapid deterioration into intensive care and requirement for invasive ventilation in this critical patient group.

“We hope that by using a treatment that is already used to treat inflammation in other autoimmune conditions we may be able to manage inflammation associated with Covid-19 early.”

The trial is designed to enrol up to 40 patients to each arm. The effectiveness of each drug will be determined by the amount of oxygen in the blood and other disease severity indicators.