New York City, June 19, 2020 — BetterLife Pharma (BETRF) (BETR.CN) (NPAT.F), an emerging clinical stage pharmaceutical development company, announced recently that it is exploring the potential of using a patent-pending proprietary interferon a2b (IFN a2b) inhalation formulation as a novel treatment for COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus.
Recent findings, published May 15, 2020 in Frontiers of Immunology in an article titled “Interferon-a2b Treatment for COVID-19” concluded that the use of interferon alpha-2b on 77 patients with moderate cases of COVID-19 significantly accelerated clearance of the virus from the airways of patients. Not only did IFN a2b help patients’ immune systems clear the coronavirus faster, it also seemed to reduce certain inflammatory proteins linked to severe COVID-19 complications.
This study was the subject of an article titled “Interferon emerges as potential treatment for COVID-19” in the May 13 the edition of the Globe and Mail, a national Canadian newspaper, where Dr. Eleanor Fish, Scientific Advisor to BetterLife and senior author commented “that awareness of interferon as a potential COVID-19 treatment has been slow to build and should be prioritized for larger-scale clinical trials.”
Scientists have discovered the pandemic-causing coronavirus is unique in short-circuiting the safest way our immune system kills off a virus, which could have implications for treating COVID-19 with interferon.
Interferon describes a family of proteins produced by the body’s immune system in response to an invading viral infection. As the name implies, interferon interferes with the virus’s ability to copy itself.
Interferon drugs are made in the lab and have been used for years to treat hepatitis, a liver infection, as well as other diseases that involve the immune system, such as multiple sclerosis and some cancers.
Normally, when interferon in the body’s white blood cells responds to a viral invader, the interferon sends out a flare signal so nearby cells will work to stop the virus from copying itself or replicating if they, too, should be invaded.
In studies on animals infected in the lab (a common model for studying respiratory viruses) and healthy human lung cells, as well as on people with COVID-19, doctors and scientists have concluded that natural interferon is not activated the way it should be.
The potential therapeutic approach of interferon gained scientific backing last month when a study published in the journal Cell showed a “striking” feature of coronavirus infection.
Following an overwhelming response to the study, the lead author shared with CBC.CA that every cell that gets infected has two major jobs:
Fortify its defences and those around it with a “call to arms” mediated by interferon, like sending out an emergency flare for the immune system’s first responders; and
Send a “call for reinforcements” for a longer-term response by releasing proteins called chemokines.
Most viruses block both of those roles. What makes SARS-Cov-2 unique is it blocks the call-to-arms function from interferon only.
Call to Arm Drugs the Answer?
The lead author went on to suggest that “treatment with interferon or drugs that induce interferon, the main character in the call to arms, is probably beneficial.”
“The secret is to do it early,” he said, when people have a mild cough and test positive for the virus and haven’t developed respiratory problems.”
The findings lend support to the idea of continuing research efforts, to investigate interferon in larger, blinded trials designed to find more definitive answers.
BetterLife Pharma aims to validate these research finding by advancing its intended clinical trials.
Disclosure: BetterLife Pharma is a client of BDA International.
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