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COVID-19: Launch of targeted treatment trial

female researcher in a lab © Medical University Vienna

The trial is based on a scientific concept which hypothesizes that tissue damage and lung failure in patients with severe COVID-19 may be the result of the overactivity of so-called death ligands rather than the viral infection itself.

Death ligands are proteins normally produced by our own body in the course of immune defence. Patients with severe to critical COVID-19 are now being treated with an immunotherapeutic drug developed by the Fas ligand blocker asunercept developed by Apogenix. The immunotherapeutic intercepts the death ligand known as Fas. "A SARS-CoV-2 infection induces an overreaction of our immune system, resulting in the overproduction of the Fas ligand, amongst other things. The Fas ligand can then kill healthy, uninfected cells in the lungs of COVID-19 patients, thus causing lung damage," explains the researcher Henning Walczak.

The phase II clinical trial is being implemented within the context of the Austrian CoronaVirus Adaptive Clinical Trial (ACOVACT) in cooperation with Apogenix AG, a biotech company headquartered in Heidelberg as well as its scientific consultant Henning Walczak and his teams at the University of Cologne and University College London (UCL). This phase II study complements another study being carried out by Apogenix with the same therapeutic in patients in Spain and Russia also suffering from severe COVID-19.

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