Anthelmintic drug may be effective against COVID-19

Monday 11 May 20

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Morten Otto Alexander Sommer
Scientific Director
DTU Biosustain
+45 21 51 83 40
The drug Niclosamide will now be clinically tested for treating coronavirus. DTU Professor Morten Sommer is looking forward to testing the drug in collaboration with a Korean research institute.

At the small Danish biotech UNION Therapeutics, everyone is working hard to start clinical trials with the drug Niclosamide as a treatment for COVID-19.

Niclosamide is an anthelmintic drug originally developed and approved for tapeworms and other intestinal parasitic infections. However, recent studies have shown that it may also have an effect on viral diseases.

According to Professor Morten Sommer from DTU Biosustain, who is also Chief Scientific Officer at UNION Therapeutics, the challenge with Niclosamide is that it is not absorbed that easily by the body. But at UNION Therapeutics they are developing a special technology which makes it easier to absorb the drug. Therefore, they are confident that it can be used against coronavirus. He says:

“We have considerable experience with Niclosamide, and have previously used it to for treating skin diseases, where we have developed a technology which enables the body to better absorb the substance. We believe that we can use the same technological solution for the lungs, so that it can be used as an effective treatment for COVID-19.”

Collaboration accelerates results
The upcoming clinical trial has been initiated in collaboration with Institut Pasteur Korea, a research institute that specializes in infectious diseases, and which is conducting research into the antiviral effect of Niclosamide.

“In their studies, they have found that the medicine appears to be 40 times more powerful than Remdesivir, which is currently also being tested as a treatment for COVID-19,” says Morten Sommer.

It was on the basis of this data that UNION Therapeutics began cooperating with Institut Pasteur Korea, and started preparing for the clinical trials of Niclosamide for treating coronavirus.

Morten Sommer welcomes the collaboration with Institut Pasteur Korea, and has high hopes for the forthcoming tests.

“Cooperating with Institut Pasteur like this is a great boon for us. By pooling our competences, we can make even faster progress,” he says.

In general, Morten Sommer is impressed by how researchers are collaborating internationally more and helping each other to find a treatment during the corona crisis.

“We have no experience with viral diseases like COVID-19. Therefore, we need access to experts in the disease, and we feel that we are being given priority, because everyone understands the seriousness of the health problem, and is aware that solutions are badly needed. As a result, things are moving very fast at the moment,” he says.

He is unable to say when the results of the clinical tests will be ready, but he hopes for a speedy process.

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