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Pharmaceuticals

Daiichi Sankyo and Nichi-Iko to develop COVID-19 inhalation drug

Japanese companies see the method as a more effective coronavirus treatment

Japanese pharmaceutical companies Daiichi Sankyo and Nichi-Iko are launching a project to develop a potential inhalation treatment for the coronavirus.

TOKYO -- Japanese pharmaceutical companies Daiichi Sankyo and Nichi-Iko, in cooperation with the University of Tokyo, will work to develop a potential inhalation treatment for the coronavirus, the parties announced Monday.

The project will focus on turning Nichi-Iko's protease inhibitor Futhan, a candidate treatment for COVID-19, into an inhalation preparation to make it more effective.

Japan's most prominent research laboratory Riken, will also participate in the project. The group will start animal testing in July with an aim to conduct clinical trials by March 2021.

Jun-ichiro Inoue, a professor at the University of Tokyo, found that Futhan can potentially prevent the transmission of the coronavirus by blocking its requisite viral entry process.

While Futhan is an infusion drug, the project will work to transform it into one that can be inhaled as that is expected to be more effective in delivering it directly to the respiratory tract and lungs, which are easily infected by the coronavirus.

In terms of contributions, Nichi-Iko will provide Futhan's active ingredient as well as clinical data. Daiichi Sankyo, meanwhile, has technology and experience from its development of anti-influenza remedy Inavir in turning a treatment into powder to make it suitable for inhalation.

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