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UK universities join forces for early-stage COVID-19 therapy testing platform

Published on 07/07/20 at 12:02pm

A coalition of UK universities have come together to build a new clinical trial and drug testing platform to evaluate early efficacy of potential therapies for the treatment of COVID-19, it has been announced.

The group of partners includes the University of Liverpool, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, Southampton Clinical Trials Unit, University of Southampton and Lancaster University, among other partners. Together, they have revealed AGILE, a platform which aims to provide a “proof of confidence engine” to determine the efficacy of potential novel coronavirus therapies.

Conducted by the Royal Liverpool University Hospital Clinical Research Unit, the platform provides first-ever access to promising treatments developed around the world, delivered either in hospital or to newly diagnosed patients at home.

Monitored for safety by an independent committee, the platform aims to collate the first available data for some of these potential treatments in order to determine whether they show enough early-stage efficacy to be fast-tracked for further testing in large-scale clinical trials. The collation argues that this will be much faster and more efficient than conventional development pathways – a key consideration during a public health crisis like COVID-19.

“In the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we need to find innovative ways to identify safe and effective treatments as soon as possible. The AGILE platform bridges the gap between pre-clinical drug discovery and large-scale testing, rapidly identifying drugs that have the best chance of success,” explained Professor Saye Khoo, Chief Investigator on AGILE at the University of Liverpool. “Seeing the launch of this new platform to test brand new COVID-19 treatments is truly exciting given the impact that any effective treatment could have on the pandemic and restarting society. We are optimistic that AGILE will accelerate the development of treatments for COVID-19, and also prepare us to respond quicker to future pandemics.”

 The platform has also secured full ethics and regulatory approval in the UK.

“Patient safety is our highest priority. We approved this trial, as it not only innovates in the early clinical trial process, which is crucial in the current pandemic, but it is also robust and safe, providing opportunities for more rapid progress towards suitable treatment options,” commented Dr Siu Ping Lam, Director of Licensing at the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). “We are delighted that such a platform, designed by UK clinicians and scientists, has the potential to change the future of clinical trials and global healthcare for the better.”

The platform is set to trial its first drug, US firm Ridgeback Biotherapeutics’ oral antiviral therapy EIDD-2801, which has shown promise in COVID-19 infected patients in pre-clinical studies.

Matt Fellows

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