Australia ‘Twiggy' Forrest's Minderoo backs COVID nasal spray hopeful

07:50  16 june  2021
07:50  16 june  2021 Source:   smh.com.au

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Mining magnate Andrew “ Twiggy ” Forrest has used his contacts in China to secure Australia an incredible 10 million coronavirus tests. The “groundbreaking” move by Mr Forrest ’ s philanthropic organisation Minderoo Foundation has been made possible with the 0 million it set aside to help Australia in the pandemic – an amount that will be repaid by the government over time. Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt announced the move on Wednesday and said the mining magnate’s contacts in China enabled him to acquire the huge amount of tests.

Billionaire Andrew Forrest ' s Minderoo Foundation secured 10 million COVID -19 test kits and pathology equipment from China for use across Australia. The kits give the nation's largest pathology providers Sonic Healthcare and Healius greater capacity to test for COVID -19 as part of a threefold increase in total The government said it would enter into supply contracts with private pathology providers for the 13 BGI and 14 Tecan laboratory systems to expand testing in every state and territory. The Minderoo Foundation paid 0 million to bring the kits to Australia, which will later be repaid by the government.

Melbourne-based respiratory health biotech Ena Respiratory has netted funding from Andrew Forrest's Minderoo Foundation as part of a $32 million raise for a COVID-19 nasal spray hoped to help protect vulnerable populations as vaccines roll out.

Andrew Forrest. © Getty Andrew Forrest.

The funding comes as the local biotech industry turns its focus to coronavirus preventatives and treatments to complement vaccinations in the face of emerging virus variants.

"Vaccines are very important and should be the priority, that is the real solution. But vaccines don't work in all patients, and in those patient populations [where they are less effective], you need to complement that," Ena co-founder and chief executive Dr Christophe Demaison said.

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Billionaire Andrew Forrest ' s acquisition of 10 million COVID -19 tests reveals some strange dynamics around health policy, geopolitics and international commerce. Mr Forrest ' s Minderoo Foundation had managed to secure precious cargo from China: 10 million COVID -19 test kits, which will soon be handed out to hospitals, clinics and labs around Australia. The spectacle stoked a brief furore, with Coalition MPs accusing Mr Forrest of allowing the senior Chinese diplomat to "gatecrash" a Federal Government press conference, while Australia and China are stuck in a fierce dispute over the

A nasal spray that blocks the absorption of the SARS-CoV-2 virus has completely protected ferrets it was tested on, according to a small study released on Thursday by an international team of scientists. The study, which was limited to animals and has not yet been peer-reviewed, was assessed by several health experts at the request of The New York Times. If the spray , which the scientists described as nontoxic and stable, is proved to work in humans, it could provide a new way of fighting the pandemic.

Ena Respiratory focuses on treatments for respiratory diseases in at-risk patients. Its nasal spray, INNA-051, is designed to boost the body's existing immune response to viruses including COVID-19, waking up TLR-2 receptors which are key to triggering action from the immune system.

In a peer-reviewed animal study earlier this year, the product was shown to reduce replication of COVID-19 by 96 per cent.

The new cash injection, in a round which was jointly led by Minderoo and Brandon Capital Partners, as well as support from university ventures fund Uniseed, will help Ena launch human trials.

"We are about to initiate the phase 1 clinical study we hope will be completed by September, [and] we are planning already for phase 2," Dr Demaison said.

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A nasal spray that attacks the coronavirus has been found to protect a small group of ferrets, raising hopes that the solution might do the same for humans. The spray is described in a study shared online Thursday. The study has been submitted to the journal Science but not yet peer-reviewed. Still, Dr. Peter J. Hotez of Baylor College of Medicine says the spray looks "really promising," per the Times. Dr. Arturo Casadevall of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health says he could see it "being part of the arsenal" used to combat the virus—if proven effective in humans.

Nasal Spray COVID Vaccine Shows Promise in Animal Trials. By Robert Preidt HealthDay Reporter. TUESDAY, Jan. "We found that administering this vaccine through a nasal spray completely protected the animals from shedding the virus which causes transmission of the virus. This means the immunization of the upper respiratory tract through a nasal spray can prevent individuals from spreading the virus and developing infections elsewhere in the body," said study author Muhammad Munir, a Lancaster University virologist.

Video: Andrew 'Twiggy' Forrest talks about his life, experiences and business endeavours (Sky News Australia)

The company is not the only biotech developing a nasal spray - fellow Melbourne firm Starpharma has launched its Viraleze coronavirus-fighting spray into Europe, the UK and India over the past few months.

However, while Starpharma's product has only been tested in a laboratory, Ena will work its way through human trials to test efficacy before approval. It is also designed for less frequent use than Viraleze, and could be used just twice per week to help protect against the virus.

Petra Andrén , adviser on life sciences for the Minderoo Foundation and Forrest's Tattarang Group, said the foundation was excited to back products that would help with the long-term fight against the virus.

"It's all about the toolbox. Vaccines are extremely important, but in order to stay ahead of the curve, we do need other tools."

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"The SaNOtize nasal spray provides a barrier. It contains nitric oxide which prevents and treats early infection by destroying the virus and impeding viral replication within the cells in the nose. "What we envision is cleansing the upper respiratory area at various points in the day. In the morning when you get up, where the virus has shed and started collecting in the back of your upper airway, first spray of the day, and then you go out into the day, and you can’t always control social distancing as we end lockdown, and so we have nasal sprays throughout the day.

An experimental dual vaccine for both influenza and the new coronavirus delivered via a nasal spray will enter human studies in Hong Kong next month, a top infectious diseases doctor said. China started initial clinical studies last month of a nasal spray vaccine for Covid -19 co-developed by researchers at Xiamen University and the University of Hong Kong, as well as by vaccine maker Beijing Wantai Biological Pharmacy Enterprise Co. The dual flu- Covid -19 vaccine is based on a temperature-adapted, weakened and replication-deficient flu virus that only grows in the upper airway.

The foundation has backed a number of virus projects over the past 18 months, including a $2 million grant for a trial called REMAP-CAP, which has been evaluating a large number of COVID-19 treatments simultaneously to guide future treatment strategies.

A range of funding options have emerged for clinical-stage biotechs over the past year, including a $25 million pledge from the Australian government last August for projects that prevent and treat the virus.

Dr Demaison said there were good, future-focused schemes emerging to support the sector, but noted Australia can still be a challenging market for companies looking to commercialise products.

"In the long term... for manufacturing and marketing, it's a bit more challenging in Australia because of the [market] size."

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