Ron Zenk

CEO of Humanetics Ron Zenk poses for a portrait photo. His company is partnering with Anthony Fauci’s team at NIAID. (Submitted photo)

An Edina-based clinical-stage pharmaceutical company has partnered with Anthony Fauci’s team at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to test its drug as a post-COVID-19 lung treatment.

Humanetics Corporation, which is located near Centennial Lakes, is currently studying its BIO 300 drug in patients who have been discharged from the hospital after suffering severe COVID-19 symptoms. The drug, which was originally developed to treat soldiers for post-chemical warfare and later, to help cancer patients with radiation therapy, has already shown successful results in helping reduce pulmonary issues, similar to those that occur from the virus.

“Our talented science team said, ‘Wait a minute, this effect that we’re seeing with COVID is very similar to radiation on our cancer subjects. I bet we can have a benefit. Let’s go after this.’ So, we did,” said Humanetics CEO Ron Zenk.

The company partnered with New York University’s Langone Health, which is where the testing is taking place. The patients include those who were treated for severe COVID-19 symptoms, which often does damage to the lungs.

The drug is meant to reduce and prevent any lingering damage after leaving the hospital, including inflammation and pulmonary fibrosis, Zenk said.

Prior to the pandemic, Humanetics was focusing on “radio protection” for those undergoing cancer therapy and for people in warzones who may be fighters, first responders or civilians. The trials had successful results.

“And then, COVID came,” Zenk said. “The same kind of complications ... in the lungs of COVID patients were very similar to what we see in the lungs of cancer patients that are receiving radiation therapy.”

That’s when Humanetics decided to get in touch with Fauci’s team at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which is now fully funding the several million dollar study.

The trials currently underway include 60 subjects who have been discharged from the hospital, and are double-blind, placebo-controlled and randomized, Zenk said. The drug is self-administered in a liquid form. After 12 weeks, the team will monitor for statistical significance.

The location is also beneficial for the trials, Zenk said. The pulmonologists from NYU’s Langone Health had already treated 10,000 COVID-19 patients, “so they have tremendous experience dealing with this.”

Zenk added that since New York was originally a hotbed for the virus, “we chose them at the time because they would have a lot of patients that could benefit from this therapy.”

Before being available for use for the public, the drug must receive either FDA approval or emergency authorization. Zenk said he expects to do a second larger study in the future with more patients.

The team has seen no serious adverse side effects, Zenk also said.

“It’s really turned us upside down in a good way in that we identified a very powerful new indication for BIO 300 that can benefit mankind globally, literally, because of the pandemic,” he said. “It makes us feel tremendously fortunate that we’re able to contribute to therapies for COVID.”

– Follow Caitlin Anderson on Twitter @EdinaSunCurrent

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