LifeArc backs 15 patient studies into ‘re-purposed’ therapies to fight coronavirus

£10m in grants mean patient enrolment can begin immediately

Medical research charity, LifeArc is providing £10m for clinical trials to find effective therapies for Covid-19. All 15 projects – involving nearly 30 different organisations – were selected for their ability to rapidly start trials in patients and the likelihood of success.

The trials involve medicines that are approved for use in other indications or those in late-stage development with known mechanism of action. This re-purposing approach, where the drug is known to have a target that could be relevant to Covid-19 patients, has a high chance of identifying a treatment in a shorter time than it would take to develop either vaccines or new medicines

Dr Catriona Crombie, Associate Director Technology Transfer, LifeArc, said: “The quality and quantity of submissions in such a short time frame demonstrated the need for the rapid availability of funding. We are delighted that, as an independently funded charity, LifeArc could respond rapidly and use our resources to identify and support those research projects that had the highest potential to be made available to patients as soon as possible.”

In response to our call to scientists and researchers to submit promising approaches to re-purpose medicines to address Covid-19, LifeArc received more than 130 submissions from organisations across the globe. The charity drew up a short-list of applications using criteria that included the scientific rationale of the approach and ability to start trials within 6-12 months.

An independent, expert Scientific Review Panel assessed the shortlisted applicants and those with the highest chance of delivering an improvement to Covid-19 patients were selected for funding.

Organisations involved in the studies come from around the globe, including the UK, China, North America and Japan. The principal investigators are primarily universities, research centres or hospitals.

Professor Stephen Holgate, Chair of the Scientific Review Panel and Professor of Immunopharmacology, University of Southampton, said: “Finding new treatments for Covid-19 is a hugely important task and this is an important initiative to happen at this crucial time. Responses to this call include so many imaginative and exciting proposals. The panel members did a wonderful job evaluating the applications and I am most grateful to them for the time and effort each of them put into the assessments.”

The submissions covered a range of approaches from new antivirals, immune modulators and anti-thrombotics to treat patients at different stages of infection including prophylaxis, right through to those requiring ventilation.

A number of academic and medical researchers will be collaborating with biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies on the trials. Additional charity and state funders are also providing support.

The LifeArc funding contributes to the national and international response from across the life sciences sector.

Of the 15 proposals selected by the panel, seven have contracts finalised and the details are provided below. The remaining eight will be subject to a further announcement.

Please go to to find out more about the funded projects.


Study name Principal investigating facility Project title
Almitrine bismesylate in Covid-19 University of Oxford To determine whether administration of almitrine bismesylate can ameliorate hypoxaemia in COVID-19 and augment effectiveness of supplementary oxygen therapy and respiratory support
ATTRACT University College London A randomized phase 2 placebo-controlled clinical study named ATTRACT (Angiotensin II Type Two Receptor Agonist Covid-19 Trial) to test the impact of an AT2R agonist (VP01) on progression of COVID-19 disease
DEFEAT-COVID study Ashford and St Peters Hospital NHS Trust, Guangdong Uni-Innovation Pharmaceuticals Co., Ltd Targeting de novo Pyrimidine Biosynthesis by leflunomide as a Novel Concept for the Treatment of Corona Virus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
FLARE Trial University College London Favipiravir, lopinavir/ritonavir or combination therapy: a randomised, double blind, 2×2 factorial placebo-controlled trial of early antiviral therapy in COVID-19 (the FLARE trial)
PIONEER Trial Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Royal Brompton Hospital, Imperial College A randomised controlled trial investigating antiviral drug favipiravir as interventional treatment for hospitalized COVID-19 patients
RAVEN King’s College London Ruxolitinib therapy to Avoid Ventilation and improve outcome for deteriorating COVID-19 patiENts
SPIKE-1 Trial The University of Edinburgh A randomised Phase II/III trial in a community setting, assessing use of camostat in reducing the clinical progression of COVID-19 by blocking SARS-CoV-2 Spike protein-initiated membrane fusion

Media contacts

Becky Wright, Four Health

+44 (0)20 3761 4495

About LifeArc

LifeArc is a self-funded medical research charity. Our mission is to advance translation of early science into health care treatments or diagnostics that can be taken through to full development and made available to patients. We have been doing this for more than 25 years and our work has resulted in a diagnostic for antibiotic resistance and four licensed medicines.

Our success allows us to explore new approaches to stimulate and fund translation. We have our own drug discovery and diagnostics development facilities, supported by experts in technology transfer and intellectual property who also provide services to other organisations. Our model is built on collaboration, and we partner with a broad range of groups including medical research charities, research organisations, industry and academic scientists. We are motivated by patient need and scientific opportunity.

Two funds help us to invest in external projects for the benefit of patients: our Philanthropic Fund provides grants to support medical research projects focused on the translation of rare diseases research and our Seed Fund is aimed at start-up companies focussed on developing new therapeutics and biological modalities.