Teaching Old Drugs New Tricks

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Funding will enable researchers to test the effectiveness of existing drugs against COVID-19.
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LifeArc has made £10m available for the development of new therapeutics to support the global effort against Covid-19. Repurposing already available drugs or those in the late stage of development offers the fastest route to bring benefit to patients at this critical time.

Four UHN researchers—Drs. Donald Weaver, Ewan Goligher, Patrick Lawler and Steven Chan—have received funding to test existing drugs for their potential to treat COVID-19. The funding is provided by LifeArc, an independent medical research charity based in the UK that aims to turn promising science into benefits for patients. The charity is providing a total of £10m for 15 projects that involve clinical trials to find effective therapies for COVID-19.

The three UHN projects selected by LifeArc all focus on existing and widely used drugs. If these drugs are shown to work as treatments for COVID-19, they could be made available to patients much faster than newly developed drugs. More details about the three projects can be found below:

FaST for COVID
Furosemide as Supportive Therapy for COVID-19
Dr. Donald Weaver’s research aims to rapidly translate an anti-inflammatory drug, known as furosemide, into a therapy for patients with COVID-19. Treatment with the drug is expected to decrease the deadly levels of inflammation—often referred to as the ‘cytokine storm’—that is sometimes seen in severe cases of COVID-19. Find out more.

ATTACC Randomized Trial
Antithrombotic Therapy to Ameliorate Complications of COVID-19
Drs. Ewan Goligher and Patrick Lawler will conduct a multi-site clinical trial to determine if heparin, which is commonly used to prevent the formation of blood clots, can improve outcomes for patients who are at high risk of developing blood clots in the lungs. The clinical trial will take place at health centres across Canada, USA and Brazil. Find out more.

RUX-COVID
Clinical Study to Investigate the Efficacy and Safety of Ruxolitinib for the Treatment of COVID-19 Pneumonia
Dr. Steven Chan’s project will determine whether an established blood cancer drug, known as ruxolitinib, can reduce the need for ventilation in patients with severe COVID-19 (i.e., those at risk of developing complications such as pneumonia). Find out more.

LifeArc will provide ongoing support to all three projects. The support goes beyond funding alone and includes access to key research resources and expertise. This will ensure that the studies deliver new therapies to tackle the virus and its impact.

Lead UHN researchers on projects funded by LifeArc (L-R): Drs. Steven Chan, Donald Weaver, Ewan Goligher and Patrick Lawler.