Houston company testing drug to protect against COVID-19

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A Houston-based company was just given the green light to begin trial studies on a drug that could help protect against and treat coronavirus.

The FDA recently approved Pulmotect to start a pair of phase two studies with their inhalant drug, PUL-042.

The company created PUL-042 about five years ago with the mission to protect the lungs against infection.

"It's an inhaled drug to turn on the immune system in the lungs instantaneously," explained Dr. Brenton Scott.

PUL-042 was originally developed with cancer patients in mind to help protect their lungs against pathogens after their chemotherapy.

"Cancer has been our main focus but in the last 45 days,m we totally pivoted the whole company to help address the pandemic that we're in. We feel like there's an opportunity there, but more importantly, we feel like there's an obligation there and we feel like we can do a lot of good for a lot of people," said Scott.

RELATED: FDA approves coronavirus vaccine to start wider testing.

Scott and his team are hopeful the drug could be used to help frontline workers protect their lungs against the coronavirus as they treat infected patients.

The drug has already passed phase one trials.

"We've tested about a dozen different bacteria things like anthrax, the plague, staph. We've tested on multiple viral settings - influenza, influenza A, influenza B, pandemic flu, and actually we're one of the few companies, that I know of, that have data against other coronaviruses, SARS and MERS. So, we have already demonstrated it works well in animals and we have safety data in humans and so now, we want to show it works well against this coronavirus in humans," said Scott.

Their next step with the newly approved phase two trials will be to test PUL-042 as a prevention and as a treatment.

If the phase two trials go well, Scott said he hopes to have emergency use authorization from the FDA by the end of the year.

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