New drug is "up to twenty more times effective against Covid" than similar existing treatments



Scottish biotech company ILC Therapeutics said its synthetic interferon product is up to twenty times more effective in the lab in tackling the Covid-19 virus than other such drugs.

The company, based in Newhouse, North Lanarkshire, hailed recent test results for its unique synthetic interferon called Alfacyte.

They showed that Alfacyte is 15 to 20 times more effective at preventing the Covid-19 virus SARS-CoV-2 in cell culture than commercially available interferons such as Interferon alpha 2 and Interferon beta 1a.

COVID-19 effectively tries to slow down the body’s innate interferon response to viral infection and Alfacyte is designed to help accelerate this response and prevent disease progression.

The company said that independent research at the University of St Andrews led by Dr Catherine Adamson, a specialist in viral diseases, demonstrated the superior effectiveness of Alfacyte against SARS-CoV-2 in laboratory tests.

Alfacyte is a synthetic molecule based on the human alpha interferons and was invented by Professor William Stimson, founder and chief scientific officer at ILC Therapeutics.

ILC Therapeutics CEO Dr Alan Walker welcomed the results as a significant development in the fight against COVID-19: “This is a very positive development as the world prepares to face a second wave.

“Therapeutic interventions are crucial for us to tame COVID-19. The innate immune system represents an immunological ‘wall’ against viral infection.

“If we can hold the virus at this ‘wall’ long enough for the Adaptive Immune Response to get ready for battle, then COVID will not be able to progress into ARDS and cause systemic damage.”

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The alpha interferons are a family of 12 natural proteins which everyone produces. Thus far only one subtype is used therapeutically, the Interferon Alpha 2.

Prof Stimson has spent two decades studying all the subtypes and their effectiveness as immunoregulators and antivirals, not just for COVID-19 but for other coronavirus-based illnesses such as SARS or MERS.

His work has led him to construct a new patented synthetic Alpha Interferon, called Alfacyte, based on the most effective and powerful Alpha Interferon subtypes.

Prof Stimson said: “COVID-19 and other coronaviruses have spent a lot of evolutionary energy trying to protect themselves against the Interferon alpha because overcoming the innate immune system is their main concern.

“They attack by delaying the production of Interferon alpha and so break through the innate immune defensive wall before the adaptive immune system is prepared to fight them.

“Timing is everything and by delivering a powerful Interferon like Alfacyte to the airways using a nebuliser we hope to accelerate and support the innate immune defences and prevent viral infection spreading and worsening.

“As well as having direct anti-viral activity Alfacyte is a powerful stimulator of Natural Killer (NK) cells that play a critical role if defending against the spread of COVID-19.

“These properties make Alfacyte an extremely promising drug candidate for COVID-19 therapy.”

The University of St Andrews’ Dr Catherine Adamson, who oversaw the tests, said: “This is a hugely exciting development and it demonstrates that there is a significant difference in the bioactivity of Interferon sub types against Coronaviruses.

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“These differences may have important therapeutic implications for COVID-19.”

ILC Therapeutics is in the process of conducting further testing of Alfacyte and hopes to proceed to clinical trials by next year.



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