Antiviral biotechnology stock Biotron (ASX:BIT) turned heads on the ASX this morning, after announcing that its lead drug candidate — BIT225 — had been shown to be effective against COVID-19 in animals.

After tracking from ~8c to below 5c through the course of 2021, BIT shares shot higher by more than 60% at the opening bell following the update.

The company “is now in discussions with its USA advisors and consultants to expedite progression of BIT225 into human trials for treatment of SARS-CoV-2 infection”, it said this morning.

Biotron research results

The drug was tested on a model called K18-hACE2 — a mouse model in which mice are engineered to be effective with COVID-19, which then initiates a range of effects including pulmonary (lung) disease.

Commenting on the ‘in vivo’ study, Biotron said BIT225 demonstrated “substantial and clinically meaningful efficacy against SARS-CoV-2 in a series of animal and cell-based studies”.

When administered orally, the drug was shown to “significantly” reduce viral load, compared to mice that were given drug-free material.

In particular, Biotron highlighted the drug’s capacity to reduced pro-inflammatory cytokines (‘cytokine storm’) which “are linked to severe illness and death in people infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus”.

Along with the in vivo study, Biotron also carried out an in vitro study on cell cultures, which showed a 99.99% success rate in the capacity of BIT225 to reduce the COVID-19 Delta strain.

Commenting on the results, Biotron chair Professor Rob Murchy said the animal model results “demonstrate a robust antiviral response that justifies further study in humans”.

He added that BIT225 is a drug that has already been safely tested on humans and used “in over 200 patients with other RNA viral diseases including HIV and hepatitis C”.

“This is drug that should be studied as a COVID-19 treatment in the very near future,” Murphy said.

Other ASX health stocks with notable news

Starpharma (ASX:SPL)

Starpharma has reported positive interim results for the prostate cancer cohort in its phase 2 DEP cabazitaxel clinical trial.

The trial is currently studying the efficacy of DEP  cabazitaxel  in treating patients with hormone refractory or Stage IV metastatic disease.

The study concluded that patients experienced significantly fewer and less- severe side effects than typically seen with conventional marketed cabazitaxel (Jevtana).

Osprey Medical (ASX:OSP)

In its CEO investors’ presentation, the company outlined its value proposition in focusing on kidney diseases.

Osprey’s technology has been clinically proven to reduce CI-AKI (Contrast Induced Acute Kidney Injury), reducing dye volume by 40% without compromise to image quality.

The company said that in 2022, it’s targeting material sales from agreements in key global markets like Europe, Asia and Canada.

Actinogen (ASX:ACW)

The company has identified Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) as the third indication that could be  treated by its lead drug, Xanamem.

A fully funded phase 2 clinical trial is scheduled to commence in 2022 with headline results expected in 2023.

To support this trial, the company will be raising $12m in placements and SPP.


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