THE city-led trial of a drug that could prevent the worsening of coronavirus in people most at risk can soon be done in their own homes.

It comes after city scientists began clinical tests in March of an inhaled drug called SNG001 Interferon beta, which is a naturally-occuring antiviral protein.

But this new phase means they will be enrolling an additional 120 patients in the home environment, as well as its original 100 patients.

One Southampton professor has warned that we are in "desperate need" of a treatment that can treat patients in the early stages of coronavirus, to prevent them getting further symptoms that are worse.

The development has been announced amid the treatment of patients in the hospital setting of the pilot trial, which is "progressing well".

A total of 98 patients out of 100 are now dosed, according to scientists involved in the trial.

Daily Echo:

The expanded trial includes patients who have had symptoms for less than 72 hours and are aged 50 or over with a high-risk comorbidity, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes or a chronic lung condition, or aged 65 and over.

Eligible patients are assessed via video call, and subsequently sent a swab by courier for self-swabbing.

These swabs will be tested, and eligible patients with a positive sample will be sent a box containing all necessary equipment, including the study medication SNG001 - or a placebo.

Recruitment for the home setting of the trial will depend on the prevalence of the virus in the community and the degree to which the targeted ‘at risk’ patients become infected.

Daily Echo:

Professor Tom Wilkinson, Professor of Respiratory Medicine at the University of Southampton and Trial Chief Investigator, said: “Expansion of the SG016 placebo controlled trial where we will be treating patients at the first sign of COVID-19 symptoms is something of a first and reflects the ingenuity and expertise of Synairgen and our researchers here at the University of Southampton.

"This novel approach is designed to reduce infection risks for both patients and front-line workers. Critically, it also allows us to gather clinical evidence for SNG001 more quickly, a treatment we believe could play a crucial role in tackling the COVID-19 pandemic.”

According to scientists, there is evidence that deficiency in IFN-beta production by the lung could explain the enhanced susceptibility of these at-risk patient groups to developing severe lower respiratory tract (lung) disease during respiratory viral infections.

Viruses, including coronaviruses such as SARS-CoV-2 and MERS-CoV, have evolved mechanisms which suppress IFN-beta production, which in turn help the virus avoid the immune system.

Daily Echo:

Professor Nick Francis, Professor of General Practice at the University of Southampton, said: “This novel trial approach is essential for the ongoing health of those at higher risk because of increasing age or other risk factors.

"The approach could be rolled out across many areas of primary care involving the interaction with vulnerable patients, including the elderly, if it is successful.

"We are in desperate need of a treatment for COVID-19 that can be given to patients early in the course of the illness in order to prevent progression to severe symptoms.”

The aim is to accelerate recovery and prevent progression of the disease from being able to breathe spontaneously with or without oxygen, to requiring ventilation.

Data from the trial in the hospital setting is expected in July.

To find out more, visit