Czech scientists test new inhalable drug to treat Covid and other diseases


Czech scientists have developed a unique inhalable drug, which could help patients with Covid. Until now, it has only been available in solid form and has been used to treat other diseases. The liquid form of the drug, which is administered through an inhaler, is now undergoing clinical trials.

Inhaler | Photo: coltsfan,  Pixabay,  Pixabay License
Structural diagram of bazedoxifene | Photo: Fvasconcellos,  Wikimedia Commons,  public domain

The new drug, developed by scientists from Charles University and BIOCEV research centre, is based on an active ingredient called bazedoxifene, which is currently used to treat osteoporosis and other symptoms of menopause.

Bazedoxifene works on the principle of blocking interleukin-6, a protein molecule involved in the regulation of the immune response.

The idea that it could be useful in the fight against Covid-19 occurred to Czech scientists immediately after the first outbreak of the pandemic in China.

Jan Brábek | Photo: BIOCEV

Already the first data suggested that interleukin-6 plays a major role in Covid, not only in activating the immune response of the organism, but also in promoting the onset and development of inflammation, explains biologist Jan Brábek:

“The problem can arise, when there is an exaggerated inflammatory response, known as a cytokine storm which happens in various intense virus infections.

“In addition to the general idea that it would be effective to block interleukin-6 in the treatment of Covid, we came up with the idea that we could use bazedoxifene, a drug that had already been approved.”

Jan Brábek and Milan Jakubek | Photo: Andrea Skalická,  Czech Radio

Milan Jakubec, a chemist from the Faculty of Medicine of Charles University, is the first scientist in the world to develop the first liquid form of bazedoxifene, called BAZE-X1:

“The application involves diluting this solution in a certain ratio with saline and then injecting it into a specific device called a nebulizer. It is capable of generating an aerosol that is then blown into the patient’s pulmonary system.”

Martina Koziar Vašáková | Photo: ČT24

Martina Koziar Vašáková from the Department of Pneumology at Prague’s Thomayer Hospital, which cooperates on the research, says the new drug could be very effective in the treatment of the so-called acute respiratory distress.

“In such cases, the lungs are filled with non-functioning inflammatory tissue that cannot carry oxygen due to poor lung tissue healing. The molecule could be part of a treatment that would prevent the development of this severe disability.”

Photo: PublicDomainPictures,  Pixabay,  CC0 1.0 DEED

Biologist Jan Brábek anticipates that the liquid, inhalable form of bazedoxifene could also be used to treat other viral infections:

“If there were a pandemic of another viral disease that manifested itself in a cytokine storm, it would be suitable. It could advance the treatment of neurological diseases as well.

“Clinical trials are currently underway at the University of California in the treatment of multiple sclerosis and we expect it would also be effective in other diseases related to chronic inflammation, such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease.”

BAZE-X1 is currently undergoing a second phase of testing so it is too early to say whether and when it will be available to patients.