McGill spinoff Laurent Pharmaceuticals to begin clinical trial on COVID-19 treatment

Company to run a Phase 2 clinical study with LAU-7b, a pro-resolving drug with potential antiviral properties against coronavirus

Laurent Pharmaceuticals Inc., a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company that spun off from McGill in 2012, announced on April 9, that it is planning to test its lead drug LAU-7b in patients with COVID-19 disease. LAU-7b was recently identified as a potential anti-viral therapeutic option for COVID-19 during a drug-library screening effort conducted by scientists from the Institut Pasteur Korea. The company is seeking approvals for clinical trials in Canada and the US.

Currently being evaluated in a Phase 2 clinical trial in patients with Cystic Fibrosis (CF), LAU-7b is an orally available treatment that has the potential to help resolve the excessive inflammation leading to lung degradation. Laurent Pharmaceuticals is the only company in Canada studying this medication.

The therapy consists of a novel oral form of retinoid fenretinide, a small molecule drug with a well-documented safety profile, and which is able to correct defects in the metabolism of fatty acids and prompt the resolution of inflammation.

This represents a new approach to address inflammation by using the body’s own ability to modulate inflammatory responses without inducing suppression of its ability to fight infections. It has been frequently observed that COVID-19 patients with severe symptoms exhibit an overactive inflammatory response of the lungs in a manner that closely resembles that of lung exacerbation in CF patients.

“There are many similarities between the aberrant inflammatory response in the lung of exacerbating CF patients and the pathogenesis of pulmonary complications associated with the COVID-19 infection,” said Larry Lands, MD, PhD, Director, Pediatric Respiratory Medicine at the Montreal Children’s Hospital of the McGill University Health Centre and the Chief Medical Advisor for Laurent Pharmaceuticals. “An imbalanced immune-inflammatory response, with rapid escalation of pro-inflammatory mediators occurs in CF patients that are going through an exacerbation episode. But in the case of COVID-19 infection, it could all happen very quickly, in a matter of days.”

The trial will begin in sites across Canada and the US once regulatory approvals have been obtained. The initial phase will focus on a minimum of 200 participants in a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study, for a treatment duration of 15 days. Participating patients will also be administered standard care procedures, in addition to the new therapy.

About Laurent Pharmaceuticals

Laurent Pharmaceuticals is a clinical stage biopharmaceutical company focusing on severe inflammatory diseases that are poorly addressed by current anti-inflammatory therapies. The company’s lead drug candidate, LAU-7b, is a unique, patent protected pill formulation of fenretinide with high bioavailability ideally applicable to a once-a-day low dose treatment regimen. LAU-7b has the potential to trigger the resolution phase of inflammation, and is currently in a Phase 2 study involving adult patients with Cystic Fibrosis (CF). Fenretinide, an investigational synthetic retinoid, has a well-documented safety profile established in 3,000+ patients, in various indications. For more information, please visit