New research from BenovelentAI supports use of Lilly’s Olumiant in COVID-19

AI and machine learning drug development firm BenevolentAI has highlighted further data supporting its hypothesis that Eli Lilly’s Olumiant (baricitinib) could be a potential treatment for COVID-19. 

The US pharma announced in mid-June that it has begun a phase 3 trial of Olumiant in patients hospitalised with COVID-19, who have evidence of inflammation but do not require mechanical ventilation. 

Olumiant emerged as a potential candidate for COVID-19 after UK-based BenevolentAI screened all existing approved drugs for activity in the disease in early 2020 during the early stages of the pandemic. 

Research outlined in the journal EMBO Molecular Medicine includes data studying the dual basis of baricitinib’s effect on patients with bilateral COVID-19 pneumonia who presented with severe disease. 

According to BenevolentAI the research validates its hypothesis that Olumiant could have a double action on the disease. 

The drug could have a previously unknown antiviral activity and may mediate the effects of the “cytokine storm” that causes inflammation and damage to organs in severe cases of the disease, the UK company said. 

Since the findings were announced Olumiant has been administered to patients in more than 12 clinical trials worldwide, including Lilly’s large trial and a separate study conducted by the US government-backed National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). 

When treated with Olumianthospitalised COVID-19 patients showed improvement in cough, fever, and a reduction in inflammatory markers and SARS-CoV-2 viral load, data that has been replicated elsewhere in single-arm studies.  

The results of randomised trials, including Lilly’s global placebo-controlled phase 3 study, are expected in the next few months. 

Baroness Joanna Shields, CEO of BenevolentAI said “The recent surge of critically ill patients with COVID-19 in regional hotspots illustrates the need for scientists and technologists to collaborate and explore all avenues of potential treatment until vaccines are readily available.  

“Our team at BenevolentAI published an AI-derived hypothesis of baricitinib’s dual mechanism of action against COVID-19, and along with our partners at Eli Lilly, Karolinska and clinicians on the front lines have now released data showing successful outcomes in the initial patients treated with baricitinib.”


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