Innovate UK funding to develop preventive COVID-19 treatment

Researchers at the University of Liverpool are part of a new project to develop a novel, preventative nasal spray treatment for COVID-19.

Professor Aras Kadioglu from the University’s Department of Clinical Infection, Microbiology & Immunology will lead pre-clinical safety and efficacy studies for the project, which is backed by an £800K grant from Innovate UK.

The project is a collaboration with UK biotech companies Destiny Pharma plc and SporeGen Ltd, who have joined forces to develop SporeGen’s SPOR-COV product – a bacterial-spore based treatment that can be administered as a nasal spray.

Killed bacterial spores, which have unique adjuvant properties, have been previously shown to be effective stimulants of innate immunity by interacting with Toll-like receptors (TLRs) and driving dendritic cell proliferation while confering protection against influenza infection in animal models.

Professor Kadioglu and Dr Rong Xu and colleagues from the Bacterial Pathogenesis and Immunity group will develop mucosal immunisation studies to determine efficacy of treatment with heat killed bacterial spores against respiratory viral infections such as influenza virus and SARS-CoV-2, using mouse models of respiratory infection.

Professor Kadioglu said: “We are quite excited to see whether the novel approach of stimulating cross-protective anti-viral immunity by inhaled bacterial spore based treatments will also protect against SARS-CoV-2 infection.

“Our aim is to determine the prophylactic efficacy of treatment against pandemic viral infections such as influenza and COVID-19, using specially developed animal models of infection, and to better understand the immune processes involved.

“This is an exciting project that brings together our expertise in infection biology and pre-clinical in vivo modelling to develop a potential new treatment against severe respiratory viral infections.”

The team aim to complete the required pre-clinical safety and efficacy studies, and also develop the manufacturing process, in the next 18 months to be ready to commence the first human clinical studies thereafter.

Visit the Bacterial Pathogenesis and Immunity Group website.