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Preclinical Study Shows Immune Drug Prevents Covid-19 Death

White pills

(Heung Soon, Pixabay, https://pixabay.com/photos/tablets-medicine-supplement-vitamin-5620566/)

21 Mar. 2022. Findings from research with older lab mice show an oral drug addressing immune deficiencies protects the mice from death by SARS-CoV-2 infections. An unedited abstract with early results of the study, conducted by a team from University of Iowa in Iowa City and biotechnology company BioAge Labs in Richmond, California appears in today’s issue of the journal Nature.

BioAge Labs discovers and develops therapies for disorders affecting older people, using techniques from systems biology and artificial intelligence to identify promising drug targets. The company says it maintains large data sets from blood samples collected over a span of 45 years, connecting molecular variables with medical outcomes over that period. BioAge says these data collections make it possible to identify key drivers of pathology in old age with computational techniques, verified by preclinical studies with lab animals.

One of BioAge Labs’ lead products, code-named BGE-175, addresses the prostaglandin pathway in the immune system. This pathway, says the company, is part of the immune response to infections, including from SARS-CoV-2 viruses responsible for Covid-19, and particularly in older individuals. Prostaglandins are hormones produced in response to respiratory infections, as well as asthma. BioAge says BGE-175 blocks signaling from PGD2 DP1 protein receptors that stimulate the prostaglandin pathway. As a result, BGE-175 promotes dendritic cells in the immune system and maintains neutrophils, white blood cells that help fight infections.

90 percent of treated mice survived

Researchers led by Iowa microbiologist Stanley Perlman and medical school professor Paul McCray tested BGE-175 in mice reaching the equivalent of middle age. The animals were randomly selected to received daily BGE-175 treatments or go untreated, two days after receiving a lethal dose of SARS-CoV-2 virus. BioAge Labs says 90 percent of mice treated with BGE-175 survived their infections, while untreated mice died.

“We are encouraged by the study findings” says BioAge Labs co-founder and CEO Kristen Fortney in a company statement released through BusinessWire, ”and our preclinical data showing BGE-175’s potential to address multiple diseases, including Covid-19, pandemic influenza, and beyond, for which poor outcomes are driven by immune aging.” Fortney is also a co-author of the Nature paper.

“Our findings,” adds Perlman, “clearly show that the therapeutic target of BGE-175 plays a key role in making the aged lung environment conducive for optimal immune function and thereby counters immune aging. The drug’s protective effect in mice strongly supports the idea that BGE-175 corrects age-related declines in immunity, providing a strong rationale for testing in older patients who are hospitalized with Covid-19.”

BioAge is testing BGE-175 in a clinical trial as a treatment for Covid-19 infections in older patients. The mid-stage trial is enrolling 312 participants hospitalized with Covid-19 infections, age 50 and over, at 25 sites in the U.S., Argentina, and Brazil. Participants are randomly assigned to receive a daily BGE-175 or placebo tablet for 14 days, with participants tracked for up to two months. The study team is looking mainly at rates of respiratory failure or death among participants, but also other indicators of lung and overall health, as well as signs of adverse effects.

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