Biopharmaceutical company Trevena has partnered with Imperial College London to assess TRV027 in a Phase Ib clinical study for the treatment of acute lung injury related to acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) in Covid-19 patients.

In Covid-19 infection, the virus attaches to and removes the ACE2 protein in the lungs, resulting in elevated angiotensin II levels. This causes overactivation of the AT1 receptor, which leads to downstream acute lung injury.

TRV027 is a selective AT1 receptor agonist. It is expected to counteract overactivation of the AT1 receptor caused by SARS-CoV-2, and also promote the repair of lung tissue.

The drug candidate was previously evaluated in a Phase IIb trial for acute heart failure.

Trevena president and CEO Carrie Bourdow said: “TRV027 may offer a new and innovative approach to treating acute lung injury, which poses a grave threat to patients’ lives.”

The randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled Phase Ib trial will evaluate the drug candidate in about 60 hospitalised, non-ventilated patients aged 65 or older with confirmed or suspected Covid-19 infection.

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During the proof-of-concept study, TRV027 will be assessed for its ability to modulate pathways involved in Covid-19 pathology.

The primary endpoint of the trial is a coagulation cascade biomarker, which indicates the effect of the drug candidate on adverse health outcomes related to increased mortality in Covid-19 patients.

Imperial College London will sponsor and fund the trial while the British Heart Foundation Centre for Research Excellence Award offer additional support.

Last month, Imperial College London secured £22.5m from the UK Government to speed-up the development of a potential Covid-19 vaccine.

Since February, researchers at Imperial have been studying a self-amplifying RNA vaccine candidate in animals, with plans for human clinical trials.