UT Austin researchers led by Pharmacy Professor Bill Williams are on a mission to demonstrate that a new form of antiviral already accepted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a treatment for COVID-19 for severe patients in certain hospitalization scenarios but in no other cases, can be transformed into an inhalable version with far broader applicability to help treat COVID-19 patients earlier on in the virus lifecycle. Professor Williams and team are still in preclinical research but are confident they are on to something important. The implications for Gilead are huge. The drug is already forecasted to be at “blockbuster” status in its first year since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized use for more severe hospitalization scenarios.
Researching the Potential
Professor Williams argues, “There’s been studies shown that it can actually inactivate COVID-19 virus” reports Tristan Balagtas with CBS Austin. Hence Professor Williams and team in Austin plan on employing a technology available at UT Austin’s labs known as “thin-film freezing” they convert remdesivir from liquid to a powder form. TrialSite has reported on the movement to investigate an inhalable form of remdesivir administered directly to the lungs hence precluding the need for an intravenous administration. Professor Williams suggests this could be a superior way to not only deliver the antiviral but to produce much better outcomes for COVID-19 patients.
Much like asthma inhalers and COPD, Professor Williams told CBS Austin that these treatments
“are based on dry power inhalation devices.”
Early Stage Treatment
A key strategy in proactive management of COVID-19 is, in fact, catching this virus early and treating it with therapies that can actually work to inhibit the effects of the infection and ultimately cut down the severity of the infection as well as the duration. There are other investigational antivirals currently under study such as Merck’s EIDD-2801 and Favipiravir (Avigan) currently under study at Stanford University. Favipiravir has been approved for early stage use against COVID-19 in Russia, China, and India among other places.
TrialSite recently wrote that Gilead is one of the smartest biotech companies in the world turning an investigational antiviral that cuts the duration of COVID-19 by a few days into an imminent blockbuster in its first year as some highly respected analysts forecast sales of $1 billion to $3 billion. Imagine if an inhalable version worked well and was relatively economical.
So, the UT Austin group continues their mission to help make Remdesivir a much easier, more accessible medication for mild, early stage COVID-10 patients, before they are too ill. This can have great outcomes on the overall health system including the freeing up of hospital resources.
Call to Action: Professor Williams and team are currently engaged in preclinical animal research. They anticipate they will be ready for clinical trials in six to 12 months. For Professor Williams’ contact information, see the link.