Biopharmaceutical company MediciNova has plans to study its investigational drug, ibudilast (MN-166), to treat acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) associated with Covid-19.

Ibudilast is an oral, small-molecule inhibitor of macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF) and phosphodiesterase (PDE) -4 and -10. It inhibits pro-inflammatory cytokines and promotes neurotrophic factors.

In previous studies, the drug candidate led to a significant decrease in serum MIF level.

The company also added that ibudilast showed anti-neuroinflammatory and neuroprotective properties in preclinical and clinical studies for neurological diseases, including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and progressive multiple sclerosis.

MediciNova president and CEO Yuichi Iwaki said: “We are very pleased to announce initiation of a clinical trial of MN-166 in ARDS caused by Covid-19.

“This study also will allow investigators to determine the optimal dose and route of administration in these very critical patients.”

MediciNova expects that the drug candidate could mitigate the hyper-inflammation and ARDS found in severe cases of Covid-19 infection.

The planned study of ibudilast in Covid-19 patients will be performed by Yale’s Advanced Therapies Group.

Yale’s Advanced Therapies Group co-director Richard Bucala said: “This study is especially gratifying because MN-166’s inhibition of MIF activity was discovered in Yale Pharmacology by Elias Lolis.

“We believe MN-166 has the potential to reduce the mortality of Covid-19 by limiting the hyper-inflammation and ARDS associated with severe cases.”

In a separate development, Yale University said that its lung fibrosis drug candidate sobetirome may possess the potential to treat some life-threatening effects of Covid-19.

Sobetirome works by healing scarring and improving cell function in lungs. In a recent study, the drug also demonstrated promise in preventing and treating ARDS.

Researchers at the university are making preparations to study sobetirome in trials.