The trial will target the GM-CSF cytokine using a drug currently in late-stage trials for rheumatoid arthritis developed by Oxford-based Izana Bioscience.
Namilumab is a monoclonal antibody therapy targeting granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF), a pro-inflammatory immune response or cytokine that plays a central role in a broad range of immune-mediated diseases.
Ergomed said the cytokine has been found in higher levels of COVID-19 intensive care patients and early treatment to suppress it might help halt the progress of coronavirus related illness.
In a statement, Someit Sidhu, chief executive of Izana said: “Evidence suggests that anti GM-CSF therapy has the potential to change the way patients' immune systems respond to the virus, and therefore to reduce dangerous inflammation and support recovery."
The programme is being conducted at the Humanitas Research Hospitals in Bergamo and Milan.
Ergomed is already involved in a study at the Papa Giovanni XXIII Hospital in Bergamo into siltuximab, an approved rheumatoid arthritis option that targets the IL-6 cytokine, as a treatment for COVID-19 patients who develop serious respiratory complications.