Based in Yardley, Pennsylvania, biotechnology company OptiNose (NASDAQ:OPTN) announced the launch of a development program for an anti-COVID-19 product candidate called OPN-019. OPN-019 is a nasal “antiseptic” that would be intended to prevent the contraction and transmission of the COVID-19 virus.
OptiNose is a pharmaceutical company that specializes in the development of ear, nose, throat, and allergy-related treatments.
The company will be using its proprietary nasal Exhalation Delivery System (EDS) technology to deliver the drug. It anticipates meeting with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) soon because both the active drug and delivery device components of the product candidate are already commercially available in the U.S.
If the FDA were to allow OptiNose to move forward with the investigational new drug, clinical trials may begin as early as this year. In the meantime, the company intends to apply for grants, form partnerships, and secure other forms of capital to advance the initial development of OPN-019.
According to President and COO Dr. Ramy Mahmoud, “The medical community is still learning about COVID-19, but we think the virus frequently spreads from one person’s upper airways – by coughing, sneezing, or talking for example – to another person’s upper airways, especially the nose. That is why we wear masks and socially distance. Evidence suggests that the virus attaches to certain types of cells in the deep part of the nose, and can multiply for an extended period, often days before symptoms appear – all the while risking spread to others.”
Product Candidate Looks to Fill Gap Between Vaccine and Drug
OPN-19 differs from most other COVID-19 product candidates in that is intended to be an intermediary drug that lies between an infection-preventing vaccine for healthy individuals and a drug that is used for sick, hospitalized patients.
In research studies conducted by a third party, the antiseptic chosen by OptiNose demonstrated an ability to kill the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The company expressed optimism towards its ability to be effective against COVID-19.
The successful delivery of the drug, however, remained a challenge because coating the deep lining of the nasal cavity with standard nasal sprays has proven difficult. The EDS technology is designed to thoroughly spread the antiviral medicine in the deep areas of the nose where the virus sheds and multiplies.
The successful development and commercialization of OPN-019 would be a major positive for OptiNose. It would also give physicians a way to suppress virus multiplication and reduce the COVID-19 viral load from the upper airways. The treatment would help slow the progression of the deadly disease from two angles acting as both a vaccine and post-exposure medication.
OPN-019 has the potential to be used for not only coronaviruses and influenzae, but other respiratory infections caused by viruses, bacteria, and fungi.
As investors have seen in recent months, companies who announce plans around a COVID-19 treatment tend to receive a positive reaction from the market. OptiNose was no exception as the stock was trading 18% higher in afternoon trading on June 30th.
The market is likely to receive an update on the progress of OPN-019 when OptiNose provides its second quarter 2020 report on August 10th.