New York City, Nov. 18, 2020 — BetterLife Pharma Inc. (“BetterLife” or the “Company”) (CSE: BETR / OTCQB: BETRF / FRA: NPAT), an emerging biotech company focused on development and commercialization of interferon (IFN) based therapeutics, recently provided a clinical and regulatory update for its AP-003 COVID-19 clinical trials using inhaled interferon alpha 2b. While recent advancements in vaccines may seem to provide a glimmer of hope for bringing the pandemic to a close, it remains to be seen how safe and effective they will be, and for how long. The importance of life-saving COVID-19 therapeutics is as great ever, and the support for the Company’s use of interferon as a therapeutic for COVID-19 is compelling.
Recent research, summed up by an article from NBC which stated ‘’COVID-19 patients with life-threatening illness have antibodies that disable key immune system proteins called interferons’’, highlighted the latest findings on the importance of interferon and its role in fighting Covid-19 and other viral infections:
·Crucial Role of IFNs in Virus Infections
Type I IFNs are our natural first line of defence against ANY and ALL viruses. The human body has a non-specific surveillance system in all its cells, since any cell can be infected – that detects virus and immediately triggers a response in that cell. This is true whether it is a respiratory virus targeting the airways and lungs (flu and coronaviruses), a virus that targets the liver (hepatitis B or C), the heart (Coxsackie virus), the gut (many enteric viruses), the brain (Zika), or whether the virus enters the skin through a mosquito bite (dengue, West Nile virus).
That immediate sensing of a virus leads immediately to the production of interferons – regardless of the virus. This is true for ALL viruses.
This IFN response is highly important as some intelligent viruses have evolved to have specific genes that block this IFN response. because viruses have co-evolved to very specifically have genes that will block this IFN response.
According to Dr. Eleanor Fish, an expert on IFNs and member of the Scientific board for BetterLife, SARS-COV-2 (the virus responsible for COVID-19) has within its viral genome a number of such trigger genes that are turned on immediately after the virus infects cells in the hosts airways which in turn produces factors that block IFN production.
·Role of IFN (or lack thereof) in COVID-19
In the high profile publication referenced above, it was shown that not only does SARS CoV-2 blunt/diminish an IFN response, thereby disabling an effective immune response to this infection, but that those individuals who become infected that have low blood levels of IFN tend to experience a more severe illness. Similarly, those individuals who have any mutations in genes associated with the IFN response also tend to have a more severe response to COVID-19. Individuals who, for whatever reason, have antibodies to IFN, will also elicit a more severe COVID.
All this informs us of the importance of the IFN response in resolving COVID.
·Pfizer Vaccine: an IFN Cell Modulator
The importance of IFN response has also been reflected in the development of the Pfizer vaccine. The vaccine stimulates the production of IFN gamma in T Cells (responsible for fighting infections). IFN gamma is Type II IFN. Both Type I (the Company’s interferon alpha 2b) and type II interferons (are central to both combating virus infection and modulating the antiviral immune response.
·An inhalation form of IFN based product can play an important role in fighting MOST infections beyond COVID-19.
For every vaccine or drug that targets a specific aspect of a virus, viruses mutate and become drug resistant. Not so for IFNs: IFNs are produced by the immune system and are not virus-specific, thus there is no development of resistance to IFNs.
Notably, IFN targets many different stages of the virus life cycle – from blocking entry into cells, to preventing uncaring of enveloped viruses, to degrading the virus genome, to blocking the assembly of the virus particle and prevent virus form getting out of cells. When cells have a huge number of virus particles, IFN will kill the cell – and the virus. IFN will also recruit specific immune cells to a site of infection, and activate them to clear the infection.
The Company has always maintained that the best approach to deal with virus infections are combination therapies, incorporating a cocktail of drugs that target different aspects of the virus.
Dr. Ahmad Doroudian, CEO BetterLife , has mentioned in recent interviews that the best approach may well be combining IFN with remdesivir and/or the monoclonal antibodies being evaluated now.
Affordable treatments will always be important. Remdesivir and monoclonal antibodies are very expensive and additionally are injected, not administered into the airways where the virus resides.
Dr. Doroudian believes that that an inhaled IFN such as the Company’s AP-003 therapeutic that directly targets the airways and that is also affordable will have widespread utility for COVID-19 and any other respiratory infection that might appear in the future.
While millions of people around the World may well have access to a vaccine eventually, there will be hundreds of thousands for whom the vaccine may well not work and will require effective treatment options. AP-003 as both a treatment and preventative may well provide the solution for this unmet need, following conclusion of its imminent trials in Australia.
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