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Starpharma hunts for cash as it speeds up COVID nasal spray treatment

Starpharma shares have been on a tear over the past month since the business started to update the market on progress about the nasal spray. Shares have jumped from $1.41 to $1.60 over the past month.

The nasal spray repurposes Starpharma’s antiviral product SPL7013, which is already used in its sexual health products including condoms. The company hopes the compound will bind to the SARS-COV-2 spike protein and block the virus from attaching to cells.

Earlier this month the company released data showing that in a laboratory, the spray inactivated the virus and showed signs it provided an effect whether used before or after exposure to the virus.

Earlier this year, Starpharma chief executive Jackie Fairley told this masthead she hoped the product could be used as a preventative measure for healthcare workers.

“In addition to PPE, it would actually provide an additional barrier, independent of vaccines or together with them,” she said.

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Last month the government’s Medical Research Future Fund gave Starpharma $1 million to commercialise the product. The company still needs to work its way through a number of regulatory approvals before it can launch the spray, but believes this process could be sped up because the active ingredient is already approved for use in a number of global markets.

Starpharma is not the only Australian company looking to nasal sprays as a potential treatment for coronavirus. On Monday Ena Respiratory announced it had raised $11.7 million to develop its nasal spray product.

The Ena spray has been tested in ferrets and has been shown to reduce the replication of the virus by 96 per cent, the company said.

The capital raising was led by Brandon Capital, which manages the Medical Research Commercialisation Fund (MRCF), Australia’s largest biotech investor. The MCRF includes backing from leading super funds including AustralianSuper and Biotechnology giant CSL.

The Ena team hopes its product, which is designed to stimulate the body’s immune response prior to infection, could be used as a preventative treatment that complements vaccines once they are made available. Human trials of the product are set to start in the coming months.

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