Sydney biotech Immutep (ASX:IMM) has agreed to let a Czech hospital test its lead drug candidate on dozens of COVID-19 patients there, after being approached the head of the hospital’s medical department.

The phase 2 medical study will commence immediately, with up to 110 COVID-19 patients at University Hospital Pilsen being treated with the intravenous injections of efti, or eftilagimod alpha.

“It’s good to be in a position to contribute to the global efforts,” Immutep chief executive Marc Voigt told Stockhead from Berlin today.

Many ASX-listed companies have released announcements relating to their efforts to test drug candidates as coronavirus treatments, but Immutep did not want to do that unless it had something based on “robust facts,” Voigt said.

“It’s a very very good outcome for us.”

Immutep said it was approached by Professor Martin Matejovic, head of the medical department at University Hospital Pilsen, as well as Dr Marek Nalos, head of the medical ICU at the Nepean Hospital in Sydney.

The study is being dubbed “Eftilagimod Alpha Treatment by immune modulation in COVID-19 disease” – or EAT COVID.

Investigators hope the treatment will boost patients’ immune response, preventing them from developing severe COVID-19 symptoms. Efti is a type of immunotherapy known as an APC (antigen-presenting cell) receptor that could help control the viral load in patients by boosting T cells.

The first six patients will receive efti injections as part of an open-label run-in to the trial, and the rest of the study will be placebo-controlled, 1:1 randomised and double-blinded – the “gold standard” of clinical research.

Immutep also announced this week that it would present clinical trial in December from its phase 2b clinical trial investigating how efti works in combination with chemotherapy in 227 breast cancer patients.

There’s another study underway testing how well efti works in combination with Merck & Co’s Keytruda immunotherapy in 109 patients with lung or head and neck cancer.

“We will be really busy for the remainder of the year,” Voigt said.