Faron Pharma says disappointed but not surprised by WHO coronavirus trial data

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Faron Pharmaceuticals Oy (LON:FARN) said it was disappointed by results from a study that showed little impact from interferon Beta-1a injected under the skin in halting coronavirus-related deaths.

The World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Solidarity trial compared 1412 patients who received IFN beta-1a and 2050 control subjects not receiving IFN beta-1a.

The results show that subcutaneous interferon (IFN) beta-1a was found to be safe, but ineffective to reduce overall mortality in hospitalised patients with COVID-19.

Faron’s IFN Beta-1a candidate Traumakine was part of the Solidarity trial, but the company said it only became available very late in the observation period and its understanding was that it had seldom been used.

“The WHO has not been able to verify how many patients received Traumakine at the time of this analysis,” said Faron in a statement.

About half of the patients receiving IFN beta-1a also received concomitant corticosteroids, which Faron believes hampered the effectiveness of Traumakine in a previous trial.

Markku Jalkanen, Faron’s CEO, said: “These first results from the Solidarity Trial are disappointing, given the need for new therapeutics to support the global response to COVID-19.

“They do support our long-held view that IFN beta-1a is likely to be ineffective when given subcutaneously.

“The science behind Traumakine and its potential to prevent multi-organ failure, through the upregulation of the key endothelial enzyme CD73, is compelling.

“We continue to believe that an intravenous formulation of IFN beta-1a is what patients need, to strengthen the body’s own IFN beta signalling – the first line of defence against viral infection – and provide optimal exposure to the lung vasculature. 

“Compared to subcutaneous IFN beta-1a, the same amount of intravenous IFN beta-1a achieves over 150x higher peak concentration in the lung vasculature without higher systemic exposure, which we believe makes this method of administration highly effective and safe.

“We will continue to pursue the science behind this.”

Shares in Faron dropped 21% to 347p.

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