SK Bioscience launches development of antiviral nasal spray for COVID-19 prevention

By Lim Chang-won Posted : April 13, 2022, 13:00 Updated : April 13, 2022, 13:00

[Courtesy of SK Bioscience]

SEOUL -- SK Bioscience began developing an innovative technology to prevent viral infections and relieve symptoms through intranasal spray in a project funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The spray could slow the spread of COVID-19 once authorized as the first line of defense before vaccines or therapeutics are developed.

When sprayed into the nose, a small protein creates a protective layer inside the upper respiratory tract and may alleviate symptoms of an established infection by disrupting the virus’ ability to replicate. A similar method could potentially be applied to viral respiratory diseases by providing preventive and therapeutic effects at once.

With international cooperation, SK Bioscience, a partner for South Korea's state project to develop COVID-19 vaccines, will initiate the preclinical development of an innovative binder protein compound designed to prevent and treat COVID-19 when sprayed into nasal passages. 

Nasal spray-type pharmaceuticals can be stored in normal refrigeration conditions, so manufacturing and distribution are relatively easy. They can be administered multiple times as multi-dose formulations. SK Bioscience will receive about $2.2 million from the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI)  to support early pre-clinical development costs. 
The lead protein compound was designed in David Baker’s lab at the Institute for Protein Design (IPD) at University of Washington School of Medicine. SK bioscience has already begun process development after finishing transfer of the technology for the candidate protein. 

SK Bioscience hopes to cooperate with IAVI and IPD to establish a nasal spray platform for the prevention and treatment of respiratory viruses to expand the scope of the use. "If we secure differentiated antiviral prevention and treatment from this research, it could be possible to quickly respond to continuously evolving respiratory viruses," CEO Ahn Jae-yong said in a statement on April 13.  
SK Bioscience has been involved in the development of a COVID-19 vaccine candidate codenamed GBP510. It is a recombinant vaccine that injects surface antigen protein of the coronavirus made using genetic recombination technology to induce an immune response. Third-stage clinical trials are underway in South Korea and elsewhere.

The development of GBP510 has been funded by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), an international foundation that finances vaccine research projects. CEPI has launched a Wave 2 project to discover new vaccines with money from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. 
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