Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv has published results of a study on the effect on Covid-19 of a drug called EXO-CD24, developed at the hospital. Thirty patients in moderate to severe condition received the drug, and 29 of them were released from hospital within three to five days. The condition of the thirtieth patient has not been reported.
The results certainly arouse hope for the future. It should be pointed out, however, that several companies, in Israel and elsewhere, have reported good results from drugs to treat Covid-19, among them RedHill Biopharma Ltd. (TASE: RDHL), Kamada Ltd. (TASE: KMDA), Enlivex (TASE: ENLV) , Pluristem Therapeutics Inc. (Nasdaq:PSTI; TASE: PSTI: PSTI), and Bonus BioGroup (TASE: BONS). The current trial, like other trials carried out at this stage, was without a control group, and no information has been released on how the patients were chosen.
All the companies are proceeding to more advanced trials, as will Ichilov Hospital. There is room in the market for more than one treatment, with each treatment working with a slightly different mechanism, but in order to reach the market they will have to undergo much more comprehensive, controlled double-blind trials. Many Covid-19 treatments are under development around the world, but only a few have reached the market, among them anti-viral drug Remdesivir, a longstanding steroid treatment called Dexmethasone, and an antibodies-based treatment.
Among the Israeli companies, RedHill Biopharma has already been through a small double-blind trial in which a tendency towards effectiveness was found for the product but the result was not clear cut, and the company has proceeded to Phase II/III trials which, if successful, could lead to an emergency approval. Pluristem is also at the controlled Phase II stage. Kamada has carried out a trial similar in extent to that carried at Ichilov Hospital, and since its treatment is based on plasma from people who have recovered from the disease, a treatment method already approved in principle in the US, the Ministry of Health has already purchased it. Enlivex has also completed a trial similar to the one at Ichilov Hospital, and will consult the US Food and Drug Administration on how to proceed further. Bonus BioGroup recently began its first trial.
Ichilov Hospital's drug, developed by Prof. Nadir Arber, director of the hospital's Integrated Cancer Prevention Center, is based on exosomes, minute particles in the cell fluid that play a role in intercellular communication, into which the researchers introduced CD24, a protein that removes excess immune cells, which is apparently damaged when the immune system gets out of control. The excessive response of the immune system is often worse for coronavirus patients than the effect of the virus itself, and most of the companies developing treatments for the severe stage of the disease are actually trying to calm the immune system in various ways.
The preparation is administered by being inhaled into the lungs once every twenty-hours for a few minutes over several days. The advantage of this method of administering treatment is that various elements of the immune system can be restrained, but only locally in the lungs, where the immune system is doing damage, without causing side-effects in the rest of the body and without overly repressing desirable immune responses in other organs.
Ichilov Hospital director Prof. Ronni Gamzu said, "Prof. Nadir Arber is a talented researcher and physician. The research carried out in his laboratory is innovative and sophisticated, and it may save coronavirus patients. His initial results were excellent, and gave all of us confidence in the method that he has been researching in his laboratory at Ichilov Hospital for many years. I am personally assisting him in obtaining permits from the Ministry of Health for continuing his research comprehensively and in depth.
"It is now understood around the world that, alongside vaccines, it is very important to develop suitable treatments for the disease, and a great deal of research is being devoted to this. I am proud that already now at Ichilov, among the first in the world, we are active in this field of research and perhaps bringing the start of some good news from Israel amidst a terrible global pandemic."
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on February 7, 2021
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