The Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust (MFT) in the UK has said that the first patient in the OSCAR clinical trial received GlaxoSmithKline (GSK)’s investigational drug otilimab to treat severe lung disease related to Covid-19.

The patient was recruited on 11 September and is being treated at Manchester Royal Infirmary (MRI), which is part of MFT.

Participants will receive a one-hour, single infusion of otilimab or a placebo intravenous (IV) therapy along with standard of care (SOC).

OSCAR will involve Covid-19 patients with severe lung difficulties needing oxygen or ventilator support.

The trial will be conducted at the MRI, as well as other hospitals across the UK. Its primary endpoint is the proportion of subjects alive and free of lung failure after 28 days.

Study lead and intensive care and anaesthesia consultant Andy Martin said: “We are conducting this study to see whether otilimab, which is under investigation as a potential treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, could also potentially ease the effect of coronavirus on the lungs, dampening the impact of the virus on the immune system.”

The study, backed by GSK, is among several Covid-19 studies granted urgent public health research status by the UK’s Department of Health and Social Care.

GSK development senior vice-president Christopher Corsico said: “We know that some Covid-19 patients experience an overreaction of their immune system, sometimes referred to as cytokine storm, which can lead to hospitalisation or death.

“We believe that otilimab might be able to help counter or calm this process.”

In May, GSK decided to conduct clinical trials of otilimab for the treatment of pneumonia caused by Covid-19.

GSK identified the drug after screening its portfolio and pipeline for potential against Covid-19. The company acquired the rights to otilimab from German biotech firm MorphoSys in 2013.