Citius Pharmaceuticals has entered an exclusive six-month option agreement to licence a stem cell therapy from Novellus to treat acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) related to Covid-19 infection.

Novellus’ mRNA-based cell-reprogramming technology is designed to generate mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) with ‘superior’ immunomodulatory properties.

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The companies said that MSCs have demonstrated safety and effectiveness in more than 900 clinical trials of various inflammatory diseases, including ARDS.

Citius Pharmaceuticals CEO Myron Holubiak said: “ARDS is the most common cause of respiratory failure and mortality in Covid-19 patients. Currently, there is no proven treatment for ARDS.

“Literature supports the use of counter-inflammatory MSCs for ARDS, and papers published in China have shown that at least seven Covid-19 patients with ARDS responded to MSC therapy.

“These cells have the potential to overcome the limitations of MSCs derived from adult donors, which are telomere shortened and introduce variability into the manufacturing process.”

A team at Citius is now focused on quickly progressing the project to an investigational new drug (IND) application.