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Aquilon tests its respiratory treatment for COVID-19

Will the new coronavirus treatment come from Wallonia? While there is much talk of vaccines in the fight against this pandemic, the Liège-based spin-off Aquilon Pharma is addressing therapeutic support for the disease. Concerned by the extent of the respiratory effects of COVID-19 infections, during and after the disease, Aquilon Pharma is launching a Phase II clinical study with its own capital to test the effectiveness of its treatment on COVID-19 patients hospitalised in respiratory distress; this treatment could also treat other chronic respiratory diseases, such as asthma.  

Aquilon Pharma, a spin-off of the University of Liège, specialises in improving existing treatments for asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). It reformulates and improves molecules already on the market and administered by inhalation. Aquilon Pharma has already submitted eight patents with worldwide application in this context. The US patent was issued in June 2018 by the USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office).

As reported by the World Health Organization (WHO), chronic respiratory diseases are among the leading causes of mortality and morbidity worldwide, and their prevalence continues to rise.

Dubbed SIROCCO 1, this randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial will be conducted in collaboration with the University of Liège. The objective is to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of Aquilon Pharma's therapeutic innovation in the management of acute COVID-19 symptoms. The evolution of pharmacodynamic parameters, such as inflammatory and cardiac biomarkers, will also be examined during the study.

A total of 99 adult patients hospitalised with a positive SARS-CoV-2 RT-PCR test will be included in the clinical trial. Dr Julien Guiot of the University of Liège is the lead researcher. The study will be carried out at the University Hospital of Liège; a second major hospital in the Liège region will be selected subsequently. Patients will receive either two different inhalation dosages of the treatment developed by Aquilon Pharma or a placebo treatment for 28 days.

"The possibility of conducting such a Phase II clinical trial today demonstrates the relevance of the research and therapeutic innovation developed by Aquilon Pharma," underlines Paul Maes, CEO of Aquilon Pharma. "This is a clear sign that the company will play an important role in the future and become a leading pharmaceutical player in the treatment of severe respiratory diseases worldwide."

This technological device delivers medication directly into the patient's lungs, where the inflammation is greatest. Local administration reduces the risk of possible side effects. Its anti-inflammatory action is also three to five times more effective than current medication, which provides faster relief for patients. This spray does not use propellant either, a more ecological alternative to what has been used until now. 

The Sirocco1 research project will have three components, namely a therapeutic evaluation of COVID-19 patients admitted directly to intensive care units, to the Respiratory Care Department and those who have returned home to convalesce.

"We can also give this medication upstream, to prevent the risk of secondary infection or the exacerbation of COVID-19. This means that patients will no longer have to be hospitalised," Damien Thiéry, the company's Chief Operating Officer, told L'Echo. "Our complex could also be administered as a maintenance treatment to those who can be released from hospital." He believes that, "Cyclodextrin completely overturns the theory for respiratory diseases. What we are developing here is what pulmonologists have been waiting for for ten years."

The first results are expected by the end of June. For a possible phase III, Aquilon will have to look for one or more international partners.


Source: Aquilon, RTC Liège et L'Echo