Synairgen soars after drug shows promise in COVID-19 cases

(Reuters) - Synairgen SYNG.L shares rose almost sixfold on Monday after the drugmaker said its medicine helped reduce the risk of severe cases in hospitalised patients with COVID-19, but some experts have cautioned against too much optimism in the market.

A study of the company’s inhalable formulation of interferon beta, SNG001, showed patients who were given the treatment had a 79% lower risk of developing severe forms of the disease caused by the new coronavirus or possible death, compared to those on a placebo.

Patients who received the drug were also more than twice as likely to recover from COVID-19, data from the trial showed.

“This assessment of SNG001 in COVID-19 patients could signal a major breakthrough in the treatment of hospitalised COVID-19 patients,” Synairgen Chief Executive Richard Marsden said.

Shares of AIM-listed Synairgen hit a record high of 218 pence by afternoon, putting its market cap at about 326 million pounds ($412 million) compared to 54.5 million pounds on Friday.

But the scientists say more data is needed to fully support the benefits of the drug, a form of naturally occurring protein which regulates the body’s antiviral responses.

“There are reasons to believe it could well be an effective treatment, but these results, while encouraging, should not be taken to mean that the treatment is so dramatic that everyone should be given it,” said Stephen Evans, professor of pharmacoepidemiology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

The study had more than 100 participants from nine hospitals in Britain. Patients were evenly matched on average age, comorbidities and average duration of COVID-19 symptoms before the enrolment.

“There is a need for many more patients to be recruited and for any adverse effects to be carefully evaluated,” Evans said.

The measure of breathlessness was markedly reduced in the study, said Synairgen, which was formed by three professors from the University of Southampton to focus on lung medication.

(This story refiles to correct spelling in the media identifier)

Reporting by Aakash Jagadeesh Babu and Pushkala Aripaka in Bengaluru; Editing by Bernard Orr and Edmund Blair