Sir Stephen Holgate MAE leads the research group at the University of Southampton where the new treatment has been developed.
Interferon beta (IFNb) is a naturally occurring protein that orchestrates the body’s antiviral responses. Respiratory viruses, including coronavirus have developed a mechanism to suppress IFNb production by the lung, helping the virus to escape the immune response and thereby putting patients at risk of severe lung disease.
Sir Stephen Holgate and his research group at Southampton University hospital, in collaboration with Synairgen, the University of Southampton drug-development company, have developed a form of IFNb that can be delivered directly to the lungs in an aerosol form, restoring the lung’s capacity to fight the virus. This treatment greatly reduces the risk of patients developing severe COVID-19 disease.
The University of Southampton’s website quotes Sir Stephen:
“Recognising that SARS-CoV-2 is known to have evolved to evade the initial antiviral response of the lung, our inhaled treatment of giving high local concentrations of interferon beta, a naturally occurring antiviral protein, restores the lung’s ability to neutralise the virus, or any mutation of the virus or co-infection with another respiratory virus such as influenza, as could be encountered in the winter if there is a resurgence of COVID-19.”