Synairgen plc (LON:SNG) will develop its inhaled interferon beta drug SNG001 as a potential treatment for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) after a review of data indicated it can boost the lungs’ antiviral capabilities.
A short trial is being planned this winter to test the COPD potential.
Astra returned the rights to Synairgen, which today confirmed results from the trial [INEXAS] indicated only a limited economic viability for the drug in asthma sufferers.
INEXAS did, however, indicate a positive test result for a respiratory virus in almost half of the patients, plus significant breathing improvement in difficult-to- treat patients who were virus-positive and who received inhaled IFN-Beta.
A previous Synairgen trial indicated similar results, said Synairgen, while pre-clinical studies also showed SNG001 protected the lung cells of COPD patients when infected with viruses that cause it to worsen [exacerbations] such as flu and the common cold.
Recent external studies have reported that risk of an exacerbation in COPD patients who catch a cold can be as high as 50%, while in the INEXAS trial it was below 10% in asthma sufferers.
A new diagnostic tool has also been developed that identifies a respiratory viral infection much earlier than previously, which will allow much quicker application of anti-viral treatments in future.
Richard Marsden, Synairgen’s chief executive, said: "We have long been conscious that COPD is the key target market for a broad spectrum antiviral such as SNG001.
Until recently, the difficulties of patient selection and the associated cost of the required trials made it prohibitively expensive to pursue. The fact that high viral exacerbation rates are now evident, combined with the launch of an effective diagnostic for viral infections, means that a COPD programme is now both highly attractive and economically viable.
"Finally, our new analysis of the INEXAS trial data suggests a complementary result to our previous trial indicating that we can improve important clinical endpoints in the lungs, which increases our confidence as we move into the significant opportunity that is COPD."
Synairgen's results for the half year to June showed a loss of £1.58mln (£1.69mln loss).
R&D spending over the period was £1.09 mln (£1.15mln) as ongoing LOXL2 collaboration with Pharmaxis through pre-clinical studies with a phase I trial scheduled for the end of this year.
Cash and bank deposits were £3.1mln at the half year.
Marsden added: "Our collaboration with Pharmaxis has made great progress and we are looking forward to entering the clinic with PXS-5382A."