PharmAust shares surge on COVID-19 treatment results, plans for human trials

PharmAust shares surge on COVID-19 treatment results, plans for human trials

A Perth-based pharmaceutical company attempting to repurpose existing drugs for COVID-19 treatment has received a boost today, after repeat in vitro experiments showed a reduction in infectivity in cell culture.

Two weeks ago PharmAust (ASX: PAA) announced preliminary tests using monepantel (MPL) and monepantel sulfone (MPLS) managed to surpress the replication of SARS-CoV-2 virus particles in the lab by 50-95 per cent.

MPL is traditionally used against gastrointestinal deadworms in sheep, and PharmAust has previously evaluated its effects on human patients with cancer. 

The repeat experiments undertaken by virologists at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne again showed the virus particles could be suppressed by up to approximately 95 per cent with these drugs. 

Discussions are now underway with the institute to explore the significance of this work, including a comparison to a similar drug rapamycin and current anti-viral drugs authorised by the FDA for emergency use to treat COVID-19, such as remdesivir.

Walter and Eliza Hall Institute researcher Professor Marc Pellegrini describes MPL's and MPLS'  anti-viral profiles as encouraging.

"These exciting repeat results validate the results of the initial test and form strong grounds for progressing the drug to the next step," says Pellegrini.

"Demonstrating twice that infectivity of SARS-CoV-2 virus particles can be suppressed by up to approximately 95 per cent in cell cultures is a remarkable outcome.

"We intend to continue collaborating with PharmAust with preclinical experimentation to support their progress."

PharmAust's chief scientific officer Dr Richard Mollard says the reproducible nature of this work in vitro "paves a propitious pathway for continued evaluation".

The company will now prepare an Executive Summary and an Investigator's Brochure to permit discussions with clinicians about a Phase I trial in a small number of human patients to treat COVID-19. 

PAA shares were up 27 per cent at $0.14 each at 12:19am AEST.

Updated at 12:19am AEST on 18 June 2020.

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