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Second Scots discovery

Biotech firm ILC unveils Covid treatments

Alan Walker (right)

Alan Walker (pictured right): ‘remarkable discovery

A Glasgow-based biotechnology firm has announced the discovery of two treatments for Covid-19 patients before they are put on ventilators.

ILC Therapeutics is now seeking £4 million to accelerate safety studies and clinical trials of the treatments.

The potential breakthrough comes just days after it emerged that a St Andrews University lab has developed another potential treatment for Covid sufferers. Neumifil, used as a nasal spray to treat flu, could play a big part in tackling the pandemic, say scientists.

ICL has patented Interferon Alpha 14 which can be administered to patients through injection or inhalation. This natural human molecule treatment could prevent Covid-19 induced Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS), which would mean that a considerable number of patients may no longer need to be on a ventilator.

It could also treat Covid-19 by boosting the body’s Natural Killer cells (NK cells) which fight the virus and prevent an immune overreaction that can cause fatal damage to the lungs, known as a Cytokine Storm.

This would prevent the onset of ARDS which remains the leading cause of Covid-19 fatalities, and also drastically reduce the need for ventilators.

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In addition to its interferon project, the company is working with Professor Shoumo Bhattacharya at the University of Oxford to develop therapeutic Evasins, which are molecules derived from ticks. This would give Covid-19 patients who have already developed ARDS a much higher chance of survival and recovery. 

The two treatments could constitute an early stage and late stage treatment option for all Covid-19 patients and offers the prospect of many severe cases of Covid-19 making a good recovery.

ICL has confirmed that Dr Alan Walker has agreed to become CEO to lead and streamline the development of the new treatments. Dr Walker has over 50 years’ experience in the life science sector. He is the former CEO of Internis and Scottish Borders-based Ryboquin and spent 28 years at Warner Lambert. 

Dr Walker stated: “It is remarkable that a small, biotech start-up of this size would have discovered not one but two novel treatment methods, and I want to help charter the course as we hopefully bring these treatments to clinical trials fast and work to save lives.”

He will work alongside chief scientific officer Professor Bill Stimson founder of the company and of the Department of Immunology at The University of Strathclyde. Prof Stimson has been involved in eight start-up/spin-out biotech companies.

The funding will allow for safety studies and the first clinical trials, in early 2021.  If these are successful, then the Alpha 14 could be accelerated quickly through the drug approval process.

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