New COVID-19 nasal spray therapy aims to 'reduce viral load in the lungs by 100-fold'

SAN FRANCISCO -- A new type of COVID-19 therapy is showing promise as a new tool to hijack the virus and slow down variants.

It's a new weapon that could be added to the arsenal against COVID-19. Unlike many others, this therapy is proving its efficacy with one dose.

"With a single administration, a single dose in the nose with these therapeutic interfering particles which are and mRNA therapeutic very much like the vaccines," said Leor Weinberger, PhD, senior investigator for the Gladstone Institutes.

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A single dose antiviral nasal therapy has been the focus of research in the scientific community for the past 70 years.

"This is a concept that was first identified in the 1950s and has been since then really a holy grail in virology. That is what my colleagues have called it. We've never been able to get it to work," said Dr. Weinberger.

For the past two decades, Dr. Weinberger has been researching this treatment for viruses like HIV.

Last year, the U.S government asked Dr. Weinberger and his team to repurpose the technology for COVID-19. According to their latest data, its works against the coronavirus.

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"It reduces the virus load by at least 100 fold," said Dr. Weinberger, adding, "The cell that is infected usually will make thousands of copies at least of the SARS- CoV-2 virus and that cell dies or is destroyed by the virus. When the therapeutic is present instead of making thousands of copies of the virus, the cell becomes a factory to make thousands of copies of the therapeutic and lowers the amount of virus."

Their data is coming from testing in hamsters led by the Gladstone Institutes research investigator Dr. Sonali Chaturvedi.

"The beauty of this therapy is that it reduces any inflammation that is associated with SARS- CoV-2 in the lungs," said Dr. Chaturvedi.

We went inside their lab where they've been able to detect the efficacy of this therapy in hamsters during the peak of infection.

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"This therapy tracks the viruses mutations and keeps up with it. It's going to work with the current variant and we anticipate it to for any future variants," said Dr. Chaturvedi and added, "We can observe that the efficacy of this therapy in hamsters for five days. After five days the hamster cleared out the virus."

Luz Pena: "When do you think this therapy is going to be accessible to the public?"

Dr. Weinberger: "I think given our partnerships with the industry specifically with VxBiosciences and we are hoping that given the clinical trials starting early next year, that we are hoping we can accelerate this in the same way that COVID vaccines were accelerated and get this to the public early in 2023."

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