Testing of Starpharma's (ASX: SPL) nasal spray has been shown to inactivate more than 99.9 per cent of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
The effectiveness of the treatment depends on its use before or after exposure to the virus.
Emboldened by the positive results, Starpharma has expedited production of the spray to make it market-ready for the first half of 2021.
The announcement comes just weeks after the company announced it had received $1 million in funding to develop the nasal spray called SPL7013.
The findings came from studies conducted in the laboratory of internationally recognised virology researcher Professor Philippe Gallay at the Scripps Research Institute in the US.
"We are delighted to be working with Professor Gallay to expedite the development of this important product," says Starpharma CEO Dr Jackie Fairley.
"These latest data show that at clinically relevant concentrations, SPL7013 inactivates more than 99.9 per cent of SARS-CoV-2, which represents a compelling feature for the product.
"This potent virucidal action is consistent with the activity seen for SPL7013 in other viruses, including HIV and HSV."
Professor Gallay, an expert in HIV (the virus that can cause AIDS) and the hepatitis C virus, says this discovery is an exciting development in the global fight against COVID-19.
"We have been working with Starpharma for a number of months now and are impressed with the antiviral data generated in our lab for SPL7013 against SARS-CoV-2," says Professor Gallay.
"It is particularly exciting to see a product show such a potent and clear virucidal effect against this highly infectious virus, and for its antiviral activity to be present when SPL7013 is added either before or after exposure of the cells to the virus."
Dr Fairley says the nasal spray will be able to hit pharmacy shelves soon and will complement other prevention measures such as PPE and vaccines.
"Starpharma's COVID-19 nasal spray has potential to be an important near-term preventative product, and given it is based on an already marketed active, its path to market is both faster and less complex than a completely new product," says Dr Fairley.
"Another attractive feature of Starpharma's SPL7013 COVID-19 nasal spray is that it is entirely complementary to other prevention measures such as PPE and vaccines.
"It also has a special relevance where social distancing is not possible such as crowded environments and certain workplaces. The importance of multiple preventative product strategies has been highlighted by the recent challenges with some vaccine trials."
Starpharma has already completed reformulation of the drug, pilot product manufacture, selection of device and packaging component, meaning the SPL7013 nasal spray will be expedited into the market.
The company has also commenced commercial discussions across a range of distribution channels and customer groups.
The discovery and subsequent announcement of it to the ASX have seen shares in the pharmaceutical company rise by more than 7 per cent at the time of writing.
Updated at 12.38pm AEST on 14 September 2020.
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