(Washington) Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania are trying, in partnership with biotechnology company Regeneron, to develop a nasal spray that would protect against COVID-19.
The idea is to build on the principle of gene therapy by introducing genetic material through the nose and throat into cells brought in response to produce powerful antibodies that would prevent infections with the new coronavirus.
“The advantage of our approach is that you don’t have to have a competent immune system for this to work,” Professor James Wilson, head of the project for the University of Pennsylvania, told AFP.
Currently tested on animals, the method could protect from the new coronavirus for about six months for a single dose, estimates the scientist, and be registered in addition to future vaccines.
A pioneer in gene therapy, James Wilson was contacted in February by the US government to find out if his laboratory could use this rapidly expanding technology against COVID-19.
But his team could not move forward until after the development by the company Regeneron of an innovative treatment based on a cocktail of synthetic antibodies.
The American Medicines Agency (FDA) recently granted emergency authorization for this treatment, which is used in particular to treat President Donald Trump.
The researchers hope that the spray will be able to induce the affected nasal cells to produce the Regeneron antibodies and thus block any SARS-CoV-2 infection in the way of the lungs.
The side effects could also, they argue, be less than those of vaccines about to be approved.
The University of Pennsylvania and Regeneron plan to complete their animal testing by January before asking the FDA for a green light for human testing.