KEY POINTS

  • Leronlimab is developed by the biotechnology company CytoDyn
  • It works to block cytokines that cause inflammation in the lungs
  • COVID-19 patients taking the drugs experience improvement after three days

A new drug meant for cancer and HIV patients could potentially help COVID-19 positive patients.

Leronlimab, developed by CytoDyn, a Vancouver biotechnology company, is supposed to help boost the immune system. While it's currently being tested for immunocompromised cancer and HIV patients, CytoDyn has also started testing the drug on coronavirus patients.

"The coronavirus kills people because of acute respiratory distress in the lungs, because of inflammation in the lungs," CytoDyn President and CEO Nader Pourhassan said. "Our drugs will take the inflammation down immediately."

CytoDyn was approved for Emergency Investigational New Drug by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) roughly two weeks ago and started treating critically ill coronavirus patients.

Preliminary results have been promising, according to its Interim Chief Medical Officer Jacob Lalezari. Some 10 patients have been given the drug, and, so far, four patients are exhibiting significant improvements.

“Although the data set is still small, we saw fairly rapid and positive laboratory responses in all four patients treated," Lalezari said in a press release. "In three of the four patients, these laboratory results were associated with a favorable clinical outcome."

Leronlimab is believed to boost the immune response and mitigate a "cytokine storm," which could lead to the patient's death. CytoDyn said that the COVID-19 patients' level of cytokines improved after three days of treatment.

"To be very clear, leronlimab does not kill the novel coronavirus. It acts as a CCR5 antagonist by blocking pro-inflammatory cytokines, which prevents cytokine storm and thus could be useful in the treatment of COVID-19," Pourhassan said.

Pourhassan added that a patient, who was previously intubated, became alert and didn't require the tubes for the ventilator anymore. Two of the patients on leronlimab were also out of the ICU.

hospital-840135_1280 Some COVID-19 patients have been released from the ICU and are showing improvements three days after talking leronlimab, developed by CytoDyn. Photo: Pixabay

The company is currently awaiting the outcomes for the rest of the patients in the drug trial.

CytoDyn is also hoping that the FDA will allow them to administer the leronlimab to more COVID-10 patients as they have been receiving plenty of requests from various hospitals in the U.S. and abroad.