Biopharmaceutical company Immuron (ASX: IMC) has revealed the IMM-124E, which is used in its commercially available Travelan product, has demonstrated neutralising activity against COVID-19.
IMM-124E is used in Immuron’s over-the-counter Travelan and Protectyn products which were developed as immunotherapeutics to prevent travellers’ diarrhea and other gastrointestinal and digestive issues.
The products are commercially available, with Travelan currently registered for use across Australia, Canada and the US.
Travelan is an orally administered tablet that is used to reduce the likelihood of contracting travellers’ diarrhea. It is a highly purified preparation of immune bovine antibodies, which, when taken with meals bind to the diarrhea causing bacteria and prevent colonisation and the resultant effect.
Testing against COVID-19
A Melbourne-based Contract Research Organisation used the coronavirus-02 (SARS-CoV-2), the virus that causes COVID-19, in an in vitro assessment using IMM-124E.
The in vitro assessment using SARS-CoV-2 was performed on four production lots of IMM-124E, with susceptibility assessed.
According to Immuron, all four production lots of IMM-124E were seen to inhibit the virus at safe concentrations.
The study also found that cell viability in the presence of IMM-124E “was greatly enhanced” compared to the placebo.
“We know that SARS-CoV-2 causes an influenza-like disease that is primarily thought to infect the lungs with transmission through the respiratory route ranging from mild respiratory symptoms to severe lung injury, multi-organ failure and death,” Immuron chief executive officer Dr Jerry Kanellos said.
“Respiratory symptoms have dominated the clinical focus, however, gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal pain are also observed in a growing subset of patients often presenting with no respiratory symptoms.”
Dr Kanellos added that the symptoms were updated recently in the US to include diarrhea and that there was mounting evidence the virus is also targeting the gastrointestinal tract.
COVID-19 and gastrointestinal tract
Swabs from COVID-19 patients’ anuses have detected the virus in the same patients who’s nasopharyngeal testing has turned negative.
“Cells in the inner-gut lining express high amounts of the angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) receptor that SARS-CoV-2 uses to gain entry to cells, implying the potential for gastrointestinal infection and a fecal-oral transmission route,” Dr Kanellos explained.
“If fecal-oral transmission is a significant factor in the pandemic then the consequences of an oral therapeutic would be significant, however the research is still inconclusive.”
Dr Kanellos added the preliminary results with IMM-124E warrant further evaluation.
The company has also filed a patent regarding its findings.
New oral therapeutic in pipeline
Today’s news follows Immuron’s announcement yesterday the US Naval Medical Research Center had received FDA guidance regarding a clinical pathway for Immuron’s investigational new drug, which is being developed to treat campylobacteriosis and enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli infections.
“This is an important milestone in the development of any new drug for therapeutic evaluation,” Dr Kanellos said.
He added it provides a clear roadmap forward for conducting two planned clinical studies in 2021.