A long list of patients want to be seen at the University of Oxford clinic where Betty Raman studies people with ‘Long Covid’ – shortness of breath, fatigue and depression that plague some who have recovered from acute symptoms of Covid-19. It is as if their batteries no longer hold a charge.
This is why Raman agreed to collaborate with
(ticker: AXLA) to treat Long Covid patients with Axcella’s proprietary blend of amino acids, in a clinical trial announced Tuesday. Axcella has already shown promising evidence that its amino acid composition can improve metabolism in people with certain liver diseases. The new study will see if Axcella’s products can revive cellular energy centers called mitochondria, which malfunction in some patients after infection with SARS-CoV-2 and other viruses.
At Oxford, Raman uses an imaging tool called magnetic resonance spectroscopy to sensitively measure energy metabolism in people’s muscles while they exercise. The new Phase 2 study will take these measurements for 40 Long Covid patients, before deciding at random which ones will receive Axcella treatment and which will receive a placebo. After four weeks. the study subjects will be retested.
“We’re hoping we can fix the battery and recharge it,” said Axcella general manager Bill Hinshaw, Jr.
The Long Covid Project made headlines in a research update hosted by Axcella on Tuesday morning. The small Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company was founded over a decade ago to find cures for metabolic dysfunction and inflammatory disease, using new combinations of naturally occurring amino acids normally found in the body.
Axcella has two Phase 2 studies of its amino acid combinations underway in patients with damaged livers, after initial trials showed improved blood sugar and inflammation levels. Its amino acids are presented in easy-to-drink powder mixes.
Axcella is one of many state-owned companies created by biotech company founder Noubar Afeyan, whose Flagship Pioneering is known to have given birth to the developer of the Covid vaccine.
(MRNA). As the world’s most valuable biotech company, with a market capitalization of around $ 140 billion, Moderna is Flagship’s biggest success.
Axcella is not. Not yet anyway. After an IPO at $ 20 in May 2019, Axcella stock fell below $ 3, for a market cap of just over $ 100 million. That’s not much above the cash value on Axcella’s balance sheet, which is also enough to allow the company to complete its clinical trials.
With so few expectations implied in its share price, Axcella is a cheap way to bet on Afeyan and his fellow Flagship.
And it shouldn’t be long before we find out if Axcella treatment can help with Long Covid. “This is a problem of enormous importance for economies, as well as for health systems,” says Raman of Oxford. “The need to find treatment is urgent and urgent. “
Write to Bill Alpert at [email protected]