Latus Therapeutics is leading a joint research team of scientists from the University of Oxford and the University of Edinburgh. The trial aims to evaluate the effectiveness for the treatment of COVID-19 of Nafamostat Mesilate (brand name: Futhan), an existing medicine for other indications in Japan. Nichi-Iko Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd, Japan-based leading drug manufacturer, has generously donated supplies of Nafamostat for the initial clinical evaluation.
This crucial research will utilise an existing medicine that has previously been shown to prevent the virus from infecting human cells in the laboratory. Unlike vaccine treatments, which will take time to develop, this drug could be used immediately to fight COVID-19, having safely been used in Japan for 35 years to treat pancreatitis. Studies have shown that the drug blocks virus entry into lung cells and prevents it from multiplying in the human body. In this way we hope it will reduce the severity of disease in infected individuals. This study is being supported by a grant from the medical research charity LifeArc as part of its activity to address the need for new therapies for COVID-19.
Dr Bobojon Nazarov, the founder of not for profit company Latus, has driven this initiative and believes Nafamostat could be effectively repurposed to treat COVID-19 patients. He said: “The proposed trial is unique in that we will be using a drug with a proven activity against COVID-19 infection in the laboratory setting combined with a proven clinical safety record. In addition, the drug class to which Nafamostat belongs is the only one shown to block entry of the virus into human cells, combined with a further key downstream benefit on blood clotting preventing one of the lethal effects of this virus. We are therefore hoping the drug can reduce the body’s exposure to viral load, prevent infection, and provide much needed time for the body’s immune system to recognise the virus and destroy it. Thus, once we prove Nafamostat’s effectiveness, it will contribute to helping alleviate public fear and reignite economic growth.”
Dr Yuichi Tamura, CEO of the Nichi-Iko Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd. said: “We have made a decision of offering the study drug per their requests. It is our great pleasure to be collaborating with teams from two of the UK’s top universities. ”
Dr Colin Ferrett, one of the clinical investigators, added: “Our team has worked at a phenomenal pace to get to this moment today. We are on the verge of an exciting and innovative trial using a safe and repurposed drug which we believe will make a difference to patient outcome and survival.”
Professor Graham Richards, key scientific advisor to the study noted: “I was impressed with how Latus coordinated the necessary trial components in such an exceptionally short time frame by arranging drug supplies from Nichi-Iko Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd, bringing teams together from the University of Oxford and the University of Edinburgh to aid in designing and delivering the proposed trial, and securing funding.”
Professor Daniel Anthony, scientific lead, said: “Our primary objective will be to discover whether treatment with Nafamostat, a serine protease inhibitor, is able to prevent clinical progression of the infection, reduce mortality, and speed recovery of patients.”
Dr Nazarov, who holds an MSc in Pharmacology, a DPhil (PhD) in Chemical Biology and an MBA from the University of Oxford, initiated these activities on March 8, 2020, while in lockdown in London. He identified key studies, including the work of Yamamoto et al. (2016), which presented clear evidence that Nafamostat prevented Coronavirus from entering the host cell. Immediately the decision was made to assemble a team of leading academics and clinicians to drive this initiative including:
- Prof. Graham Richards, CBE FRS FRSC CChem, former Head of Chemistry Department, Founder of Oxford University Innovation and Chairman of Oxford Drug Design;
- Prof. Daniel Anthony, Professor of Experimental Neuropathology;
- Prof. Paul Finn CEO of Oxford Drug Design;
- Dr Colin Ferrett, Consultant, Oxford University Hospitals;
- Mr. Richard Digirolamo, Strategic Advisor;
- Dr Suzie Anthony, Oxford University Hospitals and Somerville College;
- Dr Emma Ladds, Oxford University Primary Care; and
Collaborators from the Centre for Inflammation Research at the University of Edinburgh