Novel aerosol treatment to halt COVID-19

Novel aerosol treatment to halt COVID-19

UBC researchers are developing an antiviral medication to stop the virus from replicating and limit progression of the disease.

Dr. Shane Duggan

Nearly two years into the global pandemic, there remain a handful of approved therapies to treat COVID-19. And with emerging variants threatening the effectiveness of existing vaccines, there is an ever-pressing need to find new treatment approaches to fight the disease.

UBC researchers Dr. Dermot Kelleher and Dr. Shane Duggan are tackling this challenge head on, redirecting elements of their groundbreaking research on esophageal disease to develop a novel aerosol treatment for COVID-19.

“The global effort to intervene in the spread and severity of COVID-19 has produced several effective vaccines, but there is still a pressing need for new treatments for people who contract the virus and to safeguard the health and well-being of those who are most vulnerable to disease transmission,” says Dr. Kelleher, dean of the faculty of medicine and vice-president, health at UBC.

Dr. Dermot Kelleher

The proposed therapy — set to be delivered to the lungs as an aerosol using a handheld nebulizer — would be designed to stop the virus from replicating, halting the progression of COVID-19 in an effort to reduce harmful health effects and save lives.

The researchers are hopeful that the treatment could help reduce hospitalizations and one day delay or even eliminate the need for mechanical ventilators for patients who contract the disease. They also see great potential for the therapy to be used as a preventative treatment, capable of temporarily reducing the risk of infection and protecting healthcare workers on the frontlines as well as others at increased risk.

“The beauty behind this technology is that it holds tremendous potential because it’s readily translatable and scalable,” says Dr. Duggan.

Beyond COVID-19, the treatment approach could be rapidly mobilized and tailored to fight future viral outbreaks — and one day be used to help tackle other diseases, including some forms of cancer.


This research is supported by a generous donation from philanthropist, businessman and UBC alumnus Dr. Edwin S.H.Leong, LLD.

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