Picture of work in the lab
The laboratory where Bergenbio develops new treatments. Photographer: Nils Olav Mevatne

Cancer treatment helped corona patients

Ventilator-free survival is improved for more than 50% of corona patients, by a Norwegian cancer medicine from our member Bergenbio.

A drug produced by the Norwegian biotech company Bergenbio can be effective against serious corona disease. The drug was originally developed to treat cancer and has been in clinical testing since the beginning of the pandemic.

A recent clinical trial showed that fewer hospitalised corona patients needed to go on a ventilator after receiving the medicine. The results were presented in a press release from Bergenbio last week.

During the clinical trial, 58 hospitalised covid-19 patients in India and South Africa received the drug. The patients had a less complicated hospital stay and less need for ventilator treatment.

Ventilator-free survival was increased for more than half of the patients. Ventilator-free survival means surviving to day 29 without admission to intensive care unit and need for ventilator-assisted breathing.

“The potential of bemcentinib to increase the rate of ventilator-free survival in more than 50% of hospitalised COVID-19 patients is very encouraging,” Richard Godfrey, Chief Executive Officer of BerGenBio, commented.

The trial also showed the drug has the same effect on mutations of the coronavirus.

Need for covid-19 treatments

There is still a large unmet need for effective treatments of covid-19. Seriously ill covid-19 patients end up hospitalised in intensive care units (ICU) and may need to be put on ventilators.

“The greatest challenge faced by hospitals worldwide is an unmanageable demand for ICU capacity and ventilator support for COVID-19 patients,” Professor emeritus Stener Kvinnsland MD PhD, Director of BerGenBio and former Chair of Norwegian Korona Commission, commented.

“For the foreseeable future, in spite of recent progress with vaccinations, there remains a substantial global need for effective treatments for COVID-19 patients that offers survival benefit and relief for intensive care demand on hospitals,” Kvinnsland continued.

A Norwegian invention

Bergenbio is a Norwegian biotech company with a research team based in Bergen and a clinical development team based in Oxford.

The company has identified a protein called AXL that exists on the surface of cells. The AXL protein plays an important role when the immune system fails. It keeps cells resistant to treatment and can conceal cells from the body’s immune system.

Bergenbio has developed a drug that turns off the AXL signals, which makes treatment more effective as the immune system can be activated.

The drug was developed as a cancer treatment and was in phase 2 of clinical testing when it was selected for the ACCORD programme, a large clinical study against covid-19.

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