The team of Kenneth Palmer and other UofL and U.S. researchers receives DOD funding to develop and test nasal spray to prevent COVID-19

The University of Louisville received funding from the U.S. Department of Defense to develop a nasal spray that will prevent serious viral respiratory infections such as COVID-19 using Q-Griffithsin, a drug compound developed at UofL.

As Palmer explained, the idea is to deliver an antiviral agent to the location of the body where the virus is known to replicate first, the upper respiratory tract. Q-Griffithsin , an analog of the biologic griffithsin co-owned by UofL, the University of Pittsburgh and the National Cancer Institute, is a potent anti-viral protein that acts against multiple coronaviruses, including MERS, SARS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2, as well as pandemic threat viruses such as Nipah virus.

The one-year project, funded through an $8.5 million agreement from the DoD, includes developing the spray, testing the formulation in lab studies and conducting a Phase I clinical trial. The researchers expect the spray to be used to protect frontline health care workers, military personnel living in close quarters and other essential workers, as well as vulnerable people for whom a vaccine might not be fully protective.

Kenneth E. Palmer, director of the UofL Center for Predictive Medicine for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases and member of the Brown Cancer Center, is leading the project, known as PREVENT-CoV.

The UofL researchers will develop and manufacture the nasal spray, to be used once a day to prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection, in collaboration with Lisa Rohan and Sharon Hillier, at the University of Pittsburgh, Barry O’Keefe, at the National Cancer Institute and Donald Lo and colleagues at the NIH National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences. The team first will formulate the compound for use as a nasal spray, then will test the newly developed spray in the lab using human samples and tissues and in animal models.

With positive results, the researchers would seek U.S. Food and Drug Administration Emergency Use Authorization for deployment of the formulation, a step that the researchers anticipate could happen as soon as the end of 2021.

You may view the complete article by Betty Coffman here.