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Super funds back COVID-19 preventative drug

Four major superannuation funds are backing a biotech company that is developing a preventative nasal spray that claims to prevent COVID-19 and the common cold.

AustralianSuper, HESTA, Hostplus and Statewide Super have joined forces with CSL, a venture capital fund and universities to fund medical research conducted by Melbourne-based Ena Respiratory. The superannuation funds' investment size was not disclosed by the company.

Ena Respiratory has developed INNA-051, a nasal spray therapy that it says has been proven to reduce COVID-19 viral replication by up to 96% in a study on ferrets. The research, which has been published in two international peer-reviewed journals.

The firm has raised $11.7 million, led by the Medical Research Commercialisation Fund (MCRF), which is managed by Brandon Capital and other investment partners that includes federal government support via MCRF and superannuation funds.

The preventative nasal treatment may be used in conjunction with approved vaccines to limit community transmission of the virus and further reduce the risk of disease progression in at-risk population, said Ena Respiratory managing director Christophe Demaison.

INNA-051 works by stimulating the innate immune system, the first line of defence against the invasion of pathogens.

By boosting the immune response at the primary site of infection, the ability of the COVID-19 virus to infect the animals and replicate was dramatically reduced, one study showed.

"We're thrilled to have two such highly-regarded, peer-reviewed journals publish research papers demonstrating the broad-spectrum efficacy of our drug against multiple respiratory viruses, including the COVID-19 and rhinovirus," Demaison said.

"This is an important milestone as we are on track to initiate safety human trials in Australia by end of March 2021, and onwards to making our treatment available to the public."

Ena Respiratory is currently in discussions with existing and new investors to further accelerate the nasal spray's clinical development and global distribution.

Read more: Ena RespiratoryChristophe DemaisonAustralianSuperBrandon CapitalCSLHESTAHostplusStatewide Super
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