|A Celltrion researcher looks at a monitor in this file photo, Monday. Courtesy of Celltrion|
By Kim Yoo-chul
South Korea's top-tier pharmaceutical company Celltrion said Monday its in-house COVID-19 experimental treatment has shown "positive results" in animal testing, such as improvement in lung lesions.
In a statement, the Incheon-headquartered company added its drug for COVID-19 "specifically demonstrated a 100-fold reduction in viral load" in animal testing.
Regarding the timing of the first human clinical tests for the Celltrion candidate, the statement said, "We are set to start in July, this year." The South Korean manufacturer also added the latest test results indicated Celltrion's candidate "could be a potential treatment for COVID-19" only if the results are replicated in clinical trials.
Leading global pharmaceutical companies are teaming up to develop possible treatments and vaccines for the virus which has so far caused over 370,000 deaths, globally.
Celltrion teamed up with Chungbuk National University College of Medicine for the latest trial. "The trial set out to assess the efficacy of two dosage amounts for the antiviral antibody treatment. In comparison to the placebo-controlled group, the team observed improved recovery in terms of clinical symptom scores such as runny nose, cough and body aches, after the first day of treatment. From the fifth day, significant clinical remission was observed," said the release.
Celltrion said reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) measurement and cell culture-based viral diagnosis were used to analyse specimens from the upper respiratory tract (nasal discharge and nasal turbinate) and the lungs.
"The samples from the high-dose group saw the viral load reduce by 100-fold. Furthermore, lung biopsy showed that both dosage groups saw inflammation returning to normal lung tissue histopathology within six days as well as a shortened recovery time, whereas the placebo-controlled group experienced sustained levels of lung inflammation and complications," according to the statement.
Celltrion has research capability with other types of COVID-19 conditions such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), said Kwon Ki-sung, chief of the company's research and development (R&D) unit, in the statement. "Celltrion has the capability to roll out mass production of the therapeutic antibody treatment once it is ready."