CounterCOVID study shows imatinib significantly reduces mortality by 49% in patients with COVID-19

  • Results published on Friday 18 June by Exvastat’s collaborator in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine show that oral imatinib, currently used to treat cancers, reduces mortality by 49% in hospitalized COVID-19 patients. The results of the world-first trial, led by VUmc, Amsterdam, could signify another option in the management of COVID-19 to protect lives
  • Exvastat, funded by Cambridge Innovation Capital, has licensed exclusive rights from VUmc to develop Impentri™ (intravenous imatinib) as a first-in-class pharmacotherapy for COVID-19 pneumonia and all-cause Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS)

Exvastat Limited welcomes the publication of the CounterCOVID study results in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine showing that oral imatinib significantly reduces COVID-19 mortality. The randomised, double-blind, placebo controlled, clinical trial evaluated oral imatinib in 385 patients with severe COVID-19 and was conducted across 13 hospitals in the Netherlands. The study was run by the Vrije Universiteit medical center (VUmc) in Amsterdam and part-funded by the European Union Innovative Medicines Initiative 2, awarded to a consortium coordinated by Exvastat.

Imatinib is currently used to treat several different cancers and Exvastat is exploring its use in a novel intravenous formulation, optimized specifically for the treatment of patients with moderate to severe Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS), such as in critical COVID-19 disease. These patients are often unable to swallow and are at high risk of gastrointestinal dysfunction or malabsorption, making oral imatinib unsuitable. Exvastat, a Cambridge-based start-up, funded by Cambridge Innovation Capital, believe that the results of this study provide the proof of concept that will underpin the development of Impentri™ as a therapy for both COVID-19 and all-cause ARDS.

The CounterCOVID study is the first randomised, placebo-controlled clinical trial assessing the efficacy and safety of imatinib in hospitalized COVID-19 patients requiring supplemental oxygen. A statistically and clinically significant 49% reduction in 28-day mortality was observed in patients receiving imatinib compared with patients receiving placebo; similar percentage reductions in duration of mechanical ventilation and days in ICU were reported, and also statistically significant. There were fewer adverse events of Grade III or IV severity in the imatinib group than in the placebo group.

Dr David Cavalla, CEO, Exvastat said:

“The magnitude of benefit seen in this well-controlled trial is extremely encouraging and provides a strong rationale for the further investigation of Impentri™ by Exvastat as a therapeutic for patients with severe or critical Covid-19 infection and the broader population of patients with Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS). We are actively reviewing future development plans and we are discussing these data with the regulatory agencies.”

Dr Robert Tansley, Chairperson, Exvastat and Partner, Cambridge Innovation Capital, said

“We congratulate VUmc and their Dutch collaborators on this high-quality study that offers the potential of a vital tool in our global efforts against Covid-19. Cambridge Innovation Capital is proud to support Exvastat’s exciting investigations into the potential of imatinib beyond cancer care. Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome, whether caused by Covid-19 infection or other factors, is an area of substantial unmet medical need. The mechanism of action of imatinib in improving the integrity of pulmonary endothelium provides hope for the development of a novel treatment for this devastating condition.”