LONDON (Reuters) – UK-based biopharma company Izana Bioscience said it was testing its antibody therapy namilumab for the treatment of patients with rapidly worsening COVID-19 at the Humanitas Research Hospitals in Bergamo and Milan in Italy.

Namilumab is a monoclonal antibody therapy currently in late-stage clinical development for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis.

It targets a white cell growth factor called GM-CSF, which has been found in higher levels in COVID-19 patients, according to recent data from China, Izana Bioscience said. Early intervention could therefore be beneficial for patients with COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

Chief executive and co-founder Someit Sidhu said: “The role of GM-CSF in immune-mediated diseases is backed by a strong body of evidence and our growing understanding of COVID-19.

“Evidence suggests that anti GM-CSF therapy has the potential to change the way patients’ immune systems respond to the virus, and therefore to reduce dangerous inflammation and support recovery.”

The compassionate use programme is led by Professor Carlo Selmi, Izana said, while research services are being provided by Ergomed. Japan’s Takeda has a strategic equity stake in Izana.

(Reporting by Paul Sandle; Editing by Daniel Wallis)