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COVID-19 nasal spray nears commercial release

By ANGUS McNEICE in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2021-01-27 09:14

A nasal spray that combats COVID-19 infection could be in British pharmacies by the summer, according to the treatment's lead researcher.

The spray, which is being developed by scientists at the University of Birmingham, works by delivering an antiviral into the nasal cavity, which coats the novel coronavirus, rendering it inactive in both the user and other individuals to which it may spread through coughing.

The treatment is made from two substances - an antiviral agent called carrageenan and a thickener called gellan - that are already proven safe for use in humans.

Biomaterial engineer Richard Moakes, who leads the research, said that he is hopeful the treatment could go on sale in pharmacies within months.

"As an over-the-shelf product, we have spoken to companies with a presence on the high street as we think they could distribute it effectively," Moakes told The Daily Telegraph.

"Based on the product, it will be much quicker to get to the user than a novel drug," he added. "I am confident that the formulation can make an impact. Our goal is to make an impact as soon as possible, we would really like to see this happen by summer."

The researchers say the spray, which is yet to be named, will most likely be marketed with a four-times daily recommended dosage. Moakes said that the treatment is safe for young people, and could help to get on-site education back on track in the United Kingdom, where schools remain closed due to lockdown measures.

"We think it will help in schools, as one of the good things about the formulation of the nasal spray is that it would not need to be reformulated for children," Moakes said.

The Birmingham team began working on a nasal formulation in spring last year, during the first severe wave of outbreaks across Europe. The team published encouraging preliminary data in a preprint in November, when lab studies found that the spray prevented novel coronavirus from infecting cells for up to 48 hours after treatment.

The speed at which the treatment may come to market is helped by the fact that the ingredients are already deemed safe, with carrageenan and gellan both widely used as texturizing and stabilizing agents in processed food and drink.

The antiviral properties of carrageenan have been subject to research for some time. The substance, which naturally occurs in some seaweeds, has already been incorporated into sprays intended to ward off the common cold, and carrageenan has also been found to have good antiviral activity against herpes simplex virus.

Several other companies and institutions are exploring COVID-19 sprays, including Australia-based Ena Respiratory, which makes the INNA-X nasal treatment, and engineers at the University of California San Francisco, who have created the AeroNabs medication.

In October, the UK government awarded 800,000 pounds ($1.1 million) in funding to two UK-based biotech companies, Spore-Gen and Destiny Pharma, which are developing SPORCOV, a spray that will deliver killed bacterial spores to the nose and throat, stimulating an immune response that in turn could provide protection against COVID-19.

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