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UK-based biotechnology firm Tiziana Life Sciences is set to accelerate the development of its anti-interleukin-6 receptor (anti-IL6R) monoclonal antibody (mAb), TZLS-501, to treat Covid-19.

The company will use its formulation technology to design TZLS-501 for administration.

In 2017, Tiziana signed a global licence agreement with Swiss biotechnology company Novimmune for the drug candidate’s composition-of-matter.

Some Covid-19 patients experience an uncontrolled immune response called cytokine storm, which causes severe damage to lung tissue and progresses to respiratory failure.

According to early clinical studies in China, anti-IL6R mAbs may be used to treat Covid-19.

Last week, China’s National Health Commission recommended Roche’s rheumatoid arthritis drug Actemra for treating Covid-19 patients with serious lung damage and increased IL-6 levels.

Sanofi and Regeneron are also reviewing an anti-IL-6 receptor rheumatoid arthritis drug, Kevzara, for severe Covid-19 treatment.

Tiziana’s TZLS-501 is an anti-IL-6R mAb that attaches to membrane-bound, as well as soluble forms of IL-6R. The drug candidate leads to rapid decreased in circulating IL-6 in the blood.

Excess IL-6 is linked to chronic inflammation, thought to be related to severe lung damage caused by Covid-19 infections and acute respiratory illness.

In a Chinese study, Covid-19 was observed to result in severe respiratory illness, including severe acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), said Tiziana.

Tiziana Life Sciences CEO and CSO Dr Kunwar Shailubhai said: “We believe that the features of TZLS-501 consisting of its dual mechanism of action to inhibit signalling by the membrane-bound and soluble IL-6 receptors along with rapid depletion of circulating IL-6 cytokine, a major cause of lung damage, provides TZLS-501 with distinct advantages for treatment of Covid-19 over other anti-IL-6R mAbs such as Actemra and Kevzara for treatment of Covid-19.

“The recent decision by researchers in China to add Actemra to treatment guidelines for coronavirus patients with serious lung damage confirms the utility of anti-IL6R mAb. We are excited to move forward with our clinical development plan to expedite evaluation in patients as soon as possible.”