Singapore biotech firm to begin human clinical trial for COVID-19 treatment

Gurdip Singh

Singapore, Jun 10 (PTI) A Singapore-based biotechnology firm will begin human clinical trials next week for a potential monoclonal antibody treatment for COVID-19 that could slow down the progression of the disease in patients, help them recover faster, and provide temporary protection against it.

Tychan, a firm backed by state investor Temasek Holdings, said in a statement on Wednesday has received approval from Singapore’s Health Sciences Authority (HSA) for the Phase 1 clinical safety trial in healthy volunteers.

The firm has developed TY027, a monoclonal antibody that specifically targets SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Antibodies are generated in the body to fight off infection. Monoclonal antibodies mimic natural antibodies and can be isolated and manufactured in large quantities to treat diseases in patients.

Presently, there is no proven antibody-based treatment for COVID-19. There is also no licensed vaccine to prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection, Tychan said.

Tychan may become the first firm to start its human clinical trial in Singapore, although efforts in developing an antibody-based treatment are underway here and globally.

As of Tuesday, Tychan’s was the only registered clinical trial internationally for such a treatment, according to a report by Channel News Asia.

Depending on the results of the trial, there are various ways it can be used, said Professor Ooi Eng Eong of Duke-National University of Singapore (Duke-NUS) Medical School, who is also the firm’s co-founder.

“You could use it to treat all COVID-19 patients and prevent them from getting severe disease. You could also give it to those who are going to get severe disease and prevent them then from sliding further in their respiratory function,” the Channel quoted Professor Ooi as saying.

For those who already require oxygen, the hope is that the drug will prevent them from needing a ventilator, and for patients who are already on ventilators, that they could go off the ventilators, he explained.

“If the treatment works for COVID-19, then we could change a lot. We could reduce a lot of problems that we face,” he said, noting that patients with severe disease need oxygen and ventilators, without which they would die.

“We hope that this treatment that we have will reduce the number of people who go into such severe disease and hopefully, the number of people who die of COVID-19 becomes minimal,” said Ooi.

The drug will also be evaluated for its potential to provide temporary protection against infection with SARS-CoV-2, Tychan said.

“We could even, for instance, give this to healthcare workers who are treating COVID-19 patients so that they don't get infections themselves,” Prof Ooi said, adding that this would depend on the results of the trial.

People travelling to places with many COVID-19 cases could also use the drug to prevent infection, he said.

Doses of the monoclonal antibody will be administered by blood to 23 healthy volunteers, and the research team will then evaluate its safety. The Phase 1 trial, to be conducted by SingHealth Investigational Medicine Unit, will take about six weeks to evaluate the safety and tolerability of TY027, Tychan said.

The potential treatment was developed in partnership with the Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Health, the Economic Development Board and other Government agencies as part of a whole-of-government effort, according to the Channel report. PTI GS NSA