GLASGOW, Scotland—ILC Therapeutics has reported that its unique synthetic interferon, known as Alfacyte, is fifteen to twenty times more effective at preventing the spread of SARS-CoV-2 in cell culture than other commercially-available interferons like interferon alpha 2 and interferon beta 1a.
COVID-19 attempts to slow down the body’s innate interferon response to viral infection. Alfacyte is designed to help accelerate this response and prevent disease progression. And now independent research at the University of St Andrews led by Dr. Catherine Adamson, a specialist in viral diseases, has demonstrated the superior effectiveness of Alfacyte in vitro against SARS-CoV-2.
“This is a hugely exciting development, and it demonstrates that there is a significant difference in the bioactivity of interferon subtypes against coronaviruses,” said Adamson. “These differences may have important therapeutic implications for COVID-19.”
“This is a very positive development as the world prepares to face a second wave. Therapeutic interventions are crucial for us to tame COVID-19. The Innate Immune System represents an immunological ‘wall’ against viral infection,” noted Dr. Alan Walker, CEO of ILC Therapeutics. “If we can hold the virus at this ‘wall’ long enough for the adaptive immune response to get ready for battle, then COVID will not be able to progress into ARDS and cause systemic damage.”
Alfacyte is a synthetic molecule based on the human alpha interferons. The alpha interferons are a family of 12 natural proteins that are produced by everyone. So far only one subtype has been used therapeutically — interferon alpha 2.
Alfacyte was invented by Professor William H. Stimson, founder and chief scientific officer at ILC Therapeutics. Stimson has spent two decades studying all the subtypes and their effectiveness as immunoregulators and antivirals — not just for COVID-19, but also for other coronavirus-based illnesses like SARS or MERS. His work has led him to construct Alfacyte as a new patented synthetic alpha interferon. The drug candidate is based on the most effective and powerful alpha interferon subtypes.
“COVID-19 and other coronaviruses have spent a lot of evolutionary energy trying to protect themselves against the interferon alpha, because overcoming the innate immune system is their main concern. They attack by delaying the production of interferon alpha, and so break through the innate immune defensive wall before the adaptive immune system is prepared to fight them,” explained Stimson.
“Timing is everything, and by delivering a powerful interferon like Alfacyte to the airways using a nebulizer we hope to accelerate and support the innate immune defenses and prevent viral infection spreading and worsening. As well as having direct anti-viral activity, Alfacyte is a powerful stimulator of natural killer (NK) cells that play a critical role if defending against the spread of COVID-19,” he continued. “These properties make Alfacyte an extremely promising drug candidate for COVID-19 therapy.”
ILC Therapeutics is in the process of conducting further testing of Alfacyte, and the company hopes to proceed to clinical trials by next year.