A small but significant proportion of COVID-19 patients develop life-threatening cytokine storm. We have developed a new anti-inflammatory drug, EXO-CD24, a combination of an immune checkpoint (CD24) and a delivery platform (exosomes). CD24 inhibits the NF-kB pathway and the production of cytokines/chemokines. EXO-CD24 discriminates damage-from pathogen-associated molecular patterns (DAMPs and PAMPs) therefore does not interfere with viral clearance. EXO-CD24 was produced and purified from CD24-expressing 293-TREx™ cells. Exosomes displaying murine CD24 (mCD24) were also created. EXO-CD24/mCD24 were characterized and examined, for safety and efficacy, in vitro and in vivo. In a phase Ib/IIa study, 35 patients with moderate–high severity COVID-19 were recruited and given escalating doses, 108–1010, of EXO-CD24 by inhalation, QD, for 5 days. No adverse events related to the drug were observed up to 443–575 days. EXO-CD24 effectively reduced inflammatory markers and cytokine/chemokine, although randomized studies are required. EXO-CD24 may be a treatment strategy to suppress the hyper-inflammatory response in the lungs of COVID-19 patients and further serve as a therapeutic platform for other pulmonary and systemic diseases characterized by cytokine storm.
- cytokine storm