Singapore to start human trial for potential Covid-19 treatment next week

SINGAPORE (THE STRAITS TIMES) – Singapore will embark on human clinical trials next week on 23 healthy individuals for a potential treatment of Covid-19.

The phase one trial, developed by Singapore-based biotechnology company Tychan, will be conducted by the SingHealth Investigational Medicine Unit and take about six weeks.

It is meant to determine the safety and effectiveness of TY027, a monoclonal antibody or immune system protein that specifically targets Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, said Tychan in a statement yesterday.

TY027 is being explored for the treatment of Covid-19 patients by slowing the progression of the disease and speeding up recovery, as well as potentially providing temporary protection against infection, the company said.

If phase one is successful, Tychan will seek approval for the antibody to be administered to a larger population of volunteer patients in subsequent trials.

The treatment is aimed at Covid-19 patients for now. Whether it could be used for other applications, such as for healthcare workers or even overseas travellers, would depend on the results of the trial.

Professor Ooi Eng Eong of Duke-NUS Medical School, who is one of the founders of Tychan, said that besides using the drug as a treatment for Covid-19, it could potentially be used to prevent infections.

“If the drug is indeed safe enough, we could, for instance, give (it) to healthcare workers who are treating Covid-19 patients so they don’t get the infections themselves.

“And, as well as other scenarios like, for instance, if one travels to places with a lot of Covid-19 cases, this could be used to prevent infections when they are away from Singapore,” he said.

TY027 was developed together with the Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Health, the Economic Development Board, and other government agencies.

Monoclonal antibodies are immune system proteins that are created in the laboratory, and can be specially designed and engineered to target Sars-CoV-2.

The advantage is that these can be developed over several months and be produced in large batches. A single injection may last for a few weeks.

Tychan said it has received approval from the Health Sciences Authority to start dosing healthy volunteers next week.

Presently, there is no proven treatment or vaccine for Covid-19. One approach involves harvesting antibodies from Covid-19 patients to treat others with the disease, which has been shown to work in other serious virus infections.