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19.06.20

University of Liverpool-led initiative awarded £2.2m funding

A research initiative to rapidly identify potentially ‘game-changing’ Covid-19 drugs, led by the University of Liverpool, has been awarded funding of more than £2.2m.

With conventional evaluation of new medicines being a lengthy processes, typically taking upwards of 10 years, new methods have had to be adapted and developed to meet the urgent need for treating and preventing the current coronavirus outbreak.

Already there is a number of ongoing large-scale clinical trials testing a ‘first wave’ of repurposed medicines, such as Ebola medicine remdesivir, HIV drug lopinavir and malaria treatment hydroxychloroquine, to see if they could have similar positive impacts in treating Covid-19.

Yet, should these compounds fail to demonstrate clear benefit, a more broad and increasing range of alternative compounds – many with far less clinical evidence available – will have to be examined. Processes like these will require an ability to rapidly provide clinical proof-of-concepts for drug candidates emerging from global pre-clinical screening efforts. Dynamic early stage (phase I/IIa) clinical trials will be required to advance, ahead of time, plausible candidates for inclusion in randomised phase III clinical trials, and to eliminate candidates with little or no prospect of clinical success before huge resources are committed.

The AGILE Covid-19 Drug Testing Initiative, which is being led by the University of Liverpool and involving researchers from the Liverpool Tropical School of Medicine, Southampton Clinical Trials Unit and NIHR Liverpool and Broadgreen Clinical Research Facility, has been established to enable the rapid clinical evaluation of potential Covid-19 therapeutics.

READ MORE: World’s largest potential coronavirus treatments trial rolled out in UK

READ MORE: University Hospital Southampton trialling new coronavirus drug

Saye Khoo, Professor of Molecular and Clinical Pharmacology at the University of Liverpool, said: “AGILE uses the most modern and innovative statistical methods which allows for multiple drugs to be tested in parallel, and to remove or add treatments faster than ever before, based on results of safety and efficacy.”

“This has the advantage of testing more treatments, more quickly, to find out which new drugs are suitable for large-scale testing in COVID-19 patients. This is similar to ‘fast track’ programmes for treatment of cancer patients that are approved by the UK regulator.”

Andrew Owen, a fellow Professor of Molecular and Clinical Pharmacology at the University of Liverpool, added: “Working closely with established consortia including key stakeholders involved in WHO-led expert groups for treatment and prevention of COVID-19, AGILE will advance plausible candidates for these consortia to test in large-scale trials.”

“AGILE has been specifically designed to rapidly identify drugs that stand the best chance of success in the battle against COVID-19.”

The AGILE clinical research trials will be taking place at the NIHR Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen Clinical Research Unit based at the Royal Liverpool University Hospital. The unit provides state of the art purpose-built facilities that offer a safe and regulated environment to perform clinical research trials to the highest possible standards.

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