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Tiziana Life Sciences Accelerate Development of Potential Covid-19 Drug

By LabMedica International staff writers
Posted on 14 Mar 2020
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Tiziana Life Sciences (London, UK), a biotechnology company focused on innovative therapeutics for inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, is expediting development of TZLS-501, a novel, fully human anti-interleukin-6 receptor (anti-IL6R) monoclonal antibody (mAb) for treatment of patients infected with coronavirus COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2). Tiziana plans to administer TZLS-501 using a proprietary formulation technology. The company has entered into a world-wide license for composition-of-matter of TZLS-501, a fully human mAb targeting IL-6R, with Novimmune, SA, a Swiss biotechnology company in 2017.

Certain patients infected with coronavirus COVID-19 may develop an uncontrolled immune response ("cytokine storm"), resulting in severe damage to lung tissue which could lead to respiratory failure. Excessive production of IL-6 is regarded as a key driver of chronic inflammation and is believed to be associated with severe lung damage observed with COVID-19 infections and acute respiratory illness.

Early clinical studies conducted by doctors in China suggest that anti-IL6R mAbs may be used in clinical practice for treatment of COVID-19. Consequently, China's National Health Commission has recommended the use of Roche's blockbuster drug, Actemra® for treatment of patients infected with COVID-19, with serious lung damage and elevated IL-6 levels. Actemra was first approved by the FDA in 2010 for rheumatoid arthritis. Besides Actemra®, Sanofi and Regeneron are currently exploring Kevzara®, an FDA-approved anti-IL-6 receptor therapy for rheumatoid arthritis, for treatment of severe COVID-19.

A recent Chinese study also reported that COVID-19 infection caused clusters of severe respiratory illness such as severe acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). The cytokine, IL-6, a major determinant in the priming of pathogenic T cells to produce an inflammatory response, binds to its receptor subunit IL-6Rα on the cell membrane. The receptor IL-6Rα can be shed in soluble form, sIL6Rα, which binds to circulating IL-6 cytokine in the blood. The downstream signaling from this complex mediates pro-inflammatory effects underlying inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and ARDS. The company believes that the features of TZLS-501 consisting of its dual mechanism of action to inhibit signaling by the membrane-bound and soluble IL-6 receptor and the rapid depletion of circulating IL-6 cytokines, a major cause of lung damage, provides TZLS-501 with distinct advantages for treatment of COVID-19.

"We believe that the features of TZLS-501 consisting of its dual mechanism of action to inhibit signaling by the membrane-bound and soluble IL-6 receptors along with rapid depletion of circulating IL-6 cytokine, a major cause of lung damage, provides TZLS-501 with distinct advantages for treatment of COVID-19 over other anti-IL-6R mAbs such as Actemra® and Kevzara® for treatment of COVID-19," said Dr. Kunwar Shailubhai, CEO & CSO of Tiziana Life Sciences. "The recent decision by researchers in China to add Actemra® to treatment guidelines for coronavirus patients with serious lung damage confirms the utility of anti-IL6R mAb. We are excited to move forward with our clinical development plan to expedite evaluation in patients as soon as possible."

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