UK pharma uses Irish subsidiary to tap EU for Covid research funding

The Irish subsidiary of a British pharmaceutical firm is to lead a major research project aimed at developing a new treatment for Covid-19 patients.
UK pharma uses Irish subsidiary to tap EU for Covid research funding

The Irish subsidiary of a British pharmaceutical firm is to lead a major research project aimed at developing a new treatment for Covid-19 patients.

Exvastat, a Cambridge-based, clinical-stage pharmaceutical company established in 2016, has secured €3.6m in EU and industry funding to test the application of an existing drug for use in people infected with the coronavirus.

Exvastat executive director David Cavalla said its Irish subsidiary was specifically set up as a result of uncertainty over the regulatory environment for medical research due to Brexit as well as to apply for EU funding.

Dr Cavalla admitted its Irish subsidiary was still “a virtual company”, although he expected it would have a small number of staff in time.

He stressed that the company was not trying to “game the system” but was “happy to do what was easiest” to advance its research work.

Exvastat will act as the lead institution in conjunction with five other partners from France, the Netherlands and Canada.

The company has been developing a treatment for acute respiratory distress syndrome based on a reformulation of the generic drug, Imatinib.

The drug which is marketed as Impentri – and also known as Gleevec – is used worldwide as a treatment for a chronic form of leukaemia.

Researchers believe the drug may have an application in the treatment of people who are infected with the Covid-19 virus as many experience a build-up of fluid in the lungs which makes it difficult to breathe, resulting in death in the worst cases.

“It is hoped that it will help prevent patients with Covid-19 from needing intensive care treatment,” said Dr Cavalla.

He expressed hope that results on tests with oral tablets would be available by the end of the year, while testing on the intravenous version of the drug would be carried out in the fourth quarter of 2020.

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