Sareum Holdings PLC (LON:SAR) has confirmed its successful application for around GBP174,000 in grant funding from UK Research & Innovation (UKRI) to investigate the therapeutic potential for its SDC-1801 selective, small molecule TYK2/JAK1 kinase inhibitor, in treating severe cases of coronavirus (COVID-19).

The AIM-listed drug developer said the grant, initially announced on October 27, has been awarded through the Innovate UK Sustainable Innovation Fund for projects that address and mitigate the health, social, cultural and environmental impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak.

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Under the conditions of the grant, Sareum said it will contribute an additional GBP64,000 in cash as well as additional management time to the project, which is expected to take around six months to complete.

The research will focus on the effects of SDC-1801 on cytokine signalling after human cells are infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, to confirm whether an over-active inflammatory response – known as a cytokine storm – via the Interferon Type 1 pathway can be blocked in the disease.

Sareum also said it will investigate whether treatment with SDC-1801 can re-establish protection against bacterial pneumonia following COVID-19 infection.

If the research is successful, and subject to further funding, Sareum said it is aiming to begin a clinical trial of SDC-1801 in severe-phase COVID-19 patients during 2021.

“We are delighted that UKRI has now confirmed the grant funding to support our new studies to investigate the therapeutic potential of SDC-1801, our proprietary TYK2/JAK1 inhibitor, in severe-phase COVID-19. Alongside vaccines, there is a pressing need for new therapies to treat severe respiratory inflammation arising from viral infections such as COVID-19 and compelling scientific evidence to show that TYK2/JAK1 signalling may play an important role in the inflammatory cascade that leads to the cytokine storm observed in some patients”, Sareum’s chief science officer John Reader said in a statement.

“We will now move with all speed to begin our studies under this grant, which if successful – and also considering the safety/toxicity and other data from the formal preclinical studies – could enable us to advance this novel candidate into clinical development in severe COVID-19 patents during 2021”, he added.

Shares in Sareum were up 1.9% to 1.5p in early trading on Thursday.

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