QUB virology professor: New Covid drug EXO-CD24 from Israel looks ‘hopeful’

A Belfast professor of virology has praised a new coronavirus treatment in Israel which ‘cured’ 29 out of 30 serious cases in days.

By Philip Bradfield
Wednesday, 21st April 2021, 6:30 am
Updated Wednesday, 21st April 2021, 9:32 am

The treatment being developed at Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Medical Center has successfully completed phase 1 trials and appears to have helped numerous moderate-to-serious cases of COVID-19 quickly recover from the disease, the hospital has said.

The medicine, named EXO-CD24, fights the potentially lethal overreaction of the body’s immune system to Covid which is believed to be responsible for many deaths.

It uses exosomes — tiny carrier sacs that shuttle materials between cells — to deliver a protein called CD24 to the lungs, which Prof Nadir Arber has spent decades researching.Prof. Nadir Arber’s EXO-CD24 substance had been administered to 30 patients whose conditions were moderate or worse, and all 30 recovered — 29 of them within three to five days.

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Prof Bert Rima

QUB Professor of Virology Bert Rima gave the results a cautious welcome, but was concerned about the potential costs.

“The results of the phase 1 trial look hopeful but at this stage we are awaiting the outcome of the phase 2 and 3 trials,” he said. “ It looks good but I suspect this may be exceedingly expensive to produce and scale up.”

The Stormont Department of Health said further tests are needed.

“The Department understands the significant interest in new treatments for COVID-19 however it is important that changes in clinical practice are not made on the basis of small scale observational studies,” a spokeswoman said. “Further large scale controlled trials are needed in order to draw any conclusions about the safety and efficacy of any potential new treatment.”

The mastermind of the new drug, Prof Arber, told the Times of Israel: “The preparation is inhaled once a day for a few minutes, for five days. The preparation is directed straight to the heart of the storm — the lungs — so unlike other formulas… which selectively restrain a certain cytokine, or operate widely but cause many serious side effects, EXO-CD24 is administered locally, works broadly and without side effects.”The medicine will now move on to further trial phases, but hospital officials were already hailing it as a possible game-changer in fighting serious COVID-19 illness.

Ichilov director Roni Gamzu, the former Israeli coronavirus czar, said the research “is advanced and sophisticated and may save coronavirus patients. The results of the phase 1 trial are excellent and give us all confidence in the method [Arber] has been researching in his lab for many years.”

He added: “I am proud that at Ichilov we are… possibly bringing a blue and white remedy to a terrible global pandemic.”

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