Doctors at Barts Health NHS Trust are leading a national trial offering patients with diabetes who develop Covid-19 the opportunity to take part in ground-breaking research of a new therapy that may help prevent the worst effects of coronavirus.
People living with diabetes face a significantly higher risk of dying with Covid-19. One in three of all deaths with Covid-19 in hospital in England have been associated with diabetes.
Dr Kieran McCafferty, Consultant Nephrologist at Barts Health NHS Trust, said: “We know that the outcomes are worse for patients with diabetes who develop Covid and, as we see the number of infections rise again, it is vitally important that we explore all treatments that may help save lives.
“There has been a period of relative calm after the initial storm in the pandemic in terms of hospital admissions but we are obviously seeing a rise in cases that may result in greater numbers of people needing hospital treatment.
“If that happens, clinicians need all potential treatments at their disposal and from experience with this drug in treating over a thousand patients in the past it appears safe and effective in trials in reducing blood sugar levels that cause so many problems for patients.
“The UK is at the forefront of worldwide Covid-19 research and we believe this trial could make an important contribution in the treatment of Covid-19 diabetic patients.”
The Medicines and Healthcare products Agency (MHRA) approved the trial following new preclinical research that suggests a glucose kinase activator (AZD1656) could help diabetes sufferers infected with coronavirus by dampening the overactive response of the immune system typically acute in those patients with raised blood glucose levels.
The trial will involve hospitalised patients with mild to moderate Covid-19 symptoms and if successful the compound could ultimately be prescribed by a GP for people with diabetes presenting with early Covid symptoms.
The trial was arranged and structured by Professor Sir Chris Evans, Chairman and CEO of Excalibur Healthcare Services, through a new vehicle, Excalibur Medicines Ltd, which brought together the scientific intellectual property, international funding and a world leading team to drive the project forward.
The idea of investigating AZD1656 in this setting was conceived by Professor John Martin and his team at St George Street, a UK-based biomedical research charity. The drug was originally developed for another indication by Astra Zeneca, who have agreed to provide the drug substance for the trial, while St George Street is leading the clinical trial.
The trial, named ARCADIA, will commence with Professor Evans and the Excalibur team having sourced investment from Mubadala of Abu Dhabi, one of the world’s leading sovereign wealth funds, Excalibur itself and several high net worth individuals.
This is in addition to funding secured from the UK Government through the UKRI / Innovate UK programme. This enables the trial to go ahead at speed in 150 patients over a four-month timeframe at multiple sites in the UK.
Professor Evans said: “All of us supporting this trial recognise this drug has the potential to make a huge difference to people with diabetes who are unfortunate enough to contract coronavirus and we foresee a significant impact on the level of fatalities in the future. Treatments such as this could be vital as we are likely to be living with this horrific virus for some time to come.”
David Tapolczay, CEO St George Street, said: “Given the current crisis, we have paused all our current research programmes to focus totally on this clinical trial and evaluate this potentially life-saving new drug.
“Our charity was set up to accelerate the delivery of treatments to patients and this ethos is needed now more than ever before. We want to do everything in our power to ensure patients recover from this terrible virus.”