Mesoblast (ASX:MSB) to treat coronavirus patients with stem cell drug


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Josh Smith Markets Reporter 10 March 2020

Mesoblast (ASX:MSB) - CEO, Silviu Itescu - The Market Herald CEO, Silviu Itescu Sourced: The Australian

  • Stem cell specialist Mesoblast (MSB) is joining the race to treat Covid-19 coronavirus patients
  • The company will test its remestemcel-L product on Covid-19 patients who develop acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS)
  • According to Mesoblast, this condition is the principal cause of death in Covid-19
  • Mesoblast's treatment has been proven to improve lung function in similar conditions
  • The product will be tested on patients in the U.S., Australia, China, and Europe
  • Mesoblast shares have gained over 22 per cent today, currently worth $2.24 each
As the world scrambles to nullify the impact of the spreading Covid-19 coronavirus, ASX-listed biotech Mesoblast (MSB) has thrown its hat in the ring.
While the stem cell specialist is not claiming to offer up a cure for the coronavirus, it is looking to minimise the death toll. Mesoblast told shareholders today it will be testing its remestemcel-L product on coronavirus patients who develop acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) from the infection.
Targeting the lungs
According to Mesoblast, the mortality rate for Covid-19 patients with ARDS is upwards of 50 per cent. For reference, the total mortality rate for Covid-19 is roughly 3.5 per cent. At time of writing, total confirmed cases were approaching 114,000, while total deaths were just under 4000. Importantly, total recoveries were approaching 63,000 people.
According to a Chinese study highlighted in Mesoblast's ASX announcement, ARDS is the principal cause of death in Covid-19.
Moreover, Covid-19 patients who developed severe ARDS were more likely to be elderly and have co-existing conditions like diabetes and chronic kidney disease. Current therapeutic treatments for these patients are not improving in-hospital survival.
For Mesoblast, this means effective treatment of the severe lung conditions will help reduce the overall mortality rate of Covid-19 and play a part in stemming the panic caused by the disease.
Stem cell potential
Mesoblast's remestemcel-L treatment is based on a group of cells known as allogeneic mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). According to the company, MSCs have already proven effective against Covid-19-caused conditions.
Mesoblast said in a recent clinical study which tested MSCs in seven patients with severe Covid-19 pneumonia, the treatment either completely cured or significantly improved functional outcomes for all patients.
On top of this, remestemcel-L itself has previously been proven to improve lung function in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). As such, Mesoblast has made the logical connection that the drug is likely to have a similar effect on patients with ARDS caused by Covid-19 given the similarities between the conditions.
Remestemcel-L was originally created to treat a rare condition known as acute graft-versus-host disease (GvHD) in which the body rejects bone marrow transplants.
The treatment is already commercialised under the name Ryoncil and is available in Japan. Now, the drug will be tested on coronavirus patients in the U.S., Australia, China, and Europe.
Mesoblast announced today's news in the midst of a struggling market and helped offset some losses as it gained 22.40 per cent by midday AEDT. Currently, shares in Mesoblast trade for $2.24 each in a $1.16 billion market cap.