Starpharma rises on breakthrough COVID-19 treatment news

Starpharma rises on breakthrough COVID-19 treatment news

Pharmaceuticals developer Starpharma (ASX: SPL) has been riding positive investor sentiment for just over a week now after the announcements of two major COVID-19 breakthroughs.

Last week, SPL shares rose by about 40 per cent in response to the company's update about a nasal spray for protection against COVID-19, based on the company's proprietary antiviral dendrimer, SPL7013.

This run has continued today, with shares up around 13 per cent at the time of writing on the back of the news that SPL has created a slow release, water soluble version of remdesivir. At 10:25am this morning shares in SPL were at a record high of $1.90 per share.

Remdesivir is an antiviral drug, currently being developed by Gilead to treat COVID-19 and has emergency use authorisation from the US Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of the coronavirus in hospitalised adults and children.

According to Starpharma, its version of the COVID-19 treatment, dubbed 'DEP remdesivir', is an improvement on Gilead's.

The original is required to be administered intravenously, due to the drug's low solubility, and each infusion takes up to two hours and requires daily administration for either five or 10 days.

In contrast, Starpharma claims its DEP remedesivir variant is highly water-soluble with controlled release properties, potentially allowing for less frequent dosing and use in a non-hospital setting such as aged care.

"The solubility of DEP remdesivir is 100-fold higher than standard remdesivir," says SPL.

"The benefit of DEP remdesivir's enhanced aqueous solubility is that it would enable subcutaneous injection rather than intravenous infusion, allowing for outpatient treatment and reducing the burden on hospitals."

Starpharma CEO Dr Jackie Fairley says the company's new product will make remdesivir more widely available.

"The ability to deliver remdesivir via a long-acting, subcutaneous injection has the potential to expand its application outside hospitals, into settings like aged care, and also facilitate its use in countries with less developed healthcare systems," says Dr Fairley.

"It would also improve patient convenience and reduce the burden on the healthcare system.

"We're pleased to be able to utilise the DEP platform to improve the delivery of this important antiviral medicine."

Updated at 4:24pm AEST on 1 September 2020.

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