Nektar Therapeutics has received FDA approval to test an investigational new drug as a potential treatment for mild COVID-19 cases.
Nektar, which is based in California with major facilities in Huntsville and in India, is evaluating its bempegaldesleukin (BEMPEG, NKTR-214) to see whether the drug’s ability to stimulate lymphocyte production could improve treatment of COVID-19 patients with mild symptoms.
The investigational drug is designed to stimulate the patient’s immune system by stimulating lymphocyte production. It is already in studies for several types of cancer.
“Decreased levels of lymphocytes have been associated with increased mortality in hospitalized COVID-19 patients. Providing these patients with an agent like BEMPEG that can drive anti-viral adaptive immunity has the potential to improve these outcomes,” said Dr. Richard Bucala, a Yale Medical School professor who serves on Nektar’s COVID-19 study steering committee. “We believe this development program is important to determine whether stimulating the adaptive immune response with BEMPEG improves patient outcomes, and to hopefully bring this treatment to patients afflicted with COVID-19.”
The company plans a randomized, double-blind study in which some patients received BEMPEG and other receives a placebo. Initial tests will include patients with mild COVID-19 symptoms — fever, cough, sore throat, malaise, headache and muscle pain — but without severe breathing problems.
The study is planned to start in November.