CytoAgents, based here in Pittsburgh, says it is beginning its Phase 1 clinical trial for the drug known as GP1681.By Nicole Ford

By: KDKA-TV News Staff

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — A new drug developed by a Pittsburgh-based biotechnology company is showing promise in treating COVID-19.

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The Wolf Administration hosted a news conference Wednesday morning to announce the development of the new drug.

CytoAgents, based here in Pittsburgh, says it is beginning its Phase 1 clinical trial for the drug known as GP1681.

“Our Phase 1 trials are ongoing, but we have completed the first cohort with positive results. This allowed us to go right into cohort two and we started dosing those patients this week,” said Teresa Whalen, CytoAgents CEO.

According to CytoAgents, GP1681 fights off what is known as “cytokine storm,” or a severe immune reaction. It is known clinically as “hypercytokinemia.”

CytoAgents focuses specifically in the development of drugs for “the treatment of cytokine storm related to infectious disease,” like COVID-19 and the flu.

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“Anyone who is symptomatic up to hospitalized patients. We see that being our sweet spot. We look to prevent patients from progressing into the ICU and prevent them from requiring ventilation and to get them out of the hospital,” Whalen said.

Researchers say GP1681 “addresses an unmet need for therapeutic treatment. It has been shown to tamp down various cytokines and address the underlying cause of life-threatening symptoms associated with cytokine storm.”

Whalen said in a news release, “The world has an urgent need for new COVID-19 treatments, in addition to testing and vaccines. Our clinical trial is designed to evaluate the use of GP1681 as a potential new, cost-effective, shelf-stable, oral drug to treat cytokine storm.

“We are excited to report that the first cohort has just been successfully completed with positive results, enabling the second cohort to proceed immediately and start dosing this week. We are building a powerful treatment platform for respiratory illness that ultimately creates a lasting solution first for COVID-19 cytokine storm and then for a pipeline of indications.”

The Phase 1 trial is a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study in healthy adults that focuses on dosage and safety with dozens of patients.

Whalen said if funding is good, then Phase 2 could start late spring of 2021.

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Experts say the drug is taken by mouth and will be affordable.