Biotechnology company Turn Therapeutics has announced the enrolment of the first subjects in a clinical trial of its product, Hexagen, for treatment and prevention of Covid-19.

In the trial, Hexagen will be administered intranasally and analysed as a method for lowering viral load, as well as uptake, at the critical infection points that line the nasal passage.

Turn Therapeutics chief medical officer Dr Neil Ghodadra said: “We believe that by reducing viral load early during Covid-19 disease progression, there will be much less opportunity for patients to aspirate viral matter into the lungs, which has been shown to lead to severe respiratory disease.

“Nasal decolonisation is a tried-and-true practice used in hospitals to reduce the likelihood of hospital acquired infection.

“Hexagen brings a new, yet trusted formula to this practice, one that not only kills a wide array of viruses, fungi, and bacteria but also has extended-release properties and continues to safely eliminate these pathogens for hours with a single application.”

The randomised, placebo-controlled trial will have 100 mild to moderate Covid-19 patients and 50 healthcare workers across four leading hospitals in Panama.

The treatment arms will evaluate the efficacy of a five-day, three times per day nasal decolonisation protocol in lowering viral load and symptom progression of mild to moderate Covid-19 patients.

Turn Therapeutics noted that the prevention arms will analyse Hexagen’s ability in preventing Covid-19 infection in frontline workers when worn intranasally as an adjunct to personal protective equipment.

The company expects initial data readout in early March.

In a separate development, Atea Pharmaceuticals published new prelicinial data highlighting the highly potent in vitro antiviral activity of an orally administered, direct-acting antiviral developmental agent, AT-527, against SARS-CoV-2.

In many in vitro assays, the freebase of AT-527, AT-511, showed highly potent activity in stopping SARS-CoV-2 replication. The results show that AT-511 is extensively activated in the key human primary cells, nasal and bronchial epithelial cells.

Furthermore, the half-life noted in these primary human cells of the upper and lower respiratory tract was around 40 hours, which is a major pharmacokinetic /pharmacodynamic characteristic that allows accumulation of the active triphosphate metabolite of the drug candidate in these key tissues.

This results in the potent inhibition of SARS-CoV-2 viral replication by AT-527.