The University of Dundee is leading a clinical trial of UK-based Evgen Pharma’s SFX-01 for Covid-19.

Originally developed for ER+ metastatic breast cancer, SFX-01 might have promise in Covid-19 because is based on sulforaphane, which has natural anti-inflammatory properties. Over stimulation of the immune system and the associated inflammatory cytokine storm has been a leading cause of death from Covid-19.

University Dundee British Lung Foundation Professor of respiratory research James Chalmers noted: “SFX-01 is an anti-inflammatory medication that we believe may have the potential to reduce some of the worst outcomes of Covid-19.

“The body defends itself against inflammatory and oxidative stress by increasing levels of chemical called Nrf2. SFX-01 activates the Nrf2 system and puts it into overdrive to enhance defences against inflammatory damage. There is evidence that Nrf2 activation can reduce the severity of acute lung injury and ARDS.

“As such, we hypothesise that early treatment with an Nrf2 activator in patients hospitalised with Covid-19 may prevent deterioration and help to preserve precious ICU resources in the context of the pandemic. This is a completely new mechanism as there is currently no drug that targets Nrf2.”

“We are excited at the opportunity to test whether an Nrf2 activator such as SFX-01 may have a role in helping the recovery of Covid-19 patients,” added Barry Clare, Evgen Pharma chairman.

This study has research funding from life sciences charity LifeArc.