S'pore to start first human trial for drug to treat Covid-19

It could still take months.

Belmont Lay | June 10, 2020, 02:28 PM

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Singapore is starting its first human trial for a drug to treat Covid-19.

A total of 23 healthy volunteers here have been selected to join a clinical safety trial for an antibody drug that is could potentially be a viable treatment for Covid-19 patients.

The Phase 1 clinical safety trial will start next week and last some six weeks.

The Health Sciences Authority granted approval for the trial on June 8.

The biotech company, Tychan, is behind the treatment.

This is the first time an in-human trial for a Covid-19 treatment medicine has been approved in Singapore. 

Tychan said in a statement on June 10 that it produced this antibody on Feb. 25.

So far, more than 400,000 around the globe have been killed by Covid-19.

For temporary protection against Covid-19

Infectious diseases expert Ooi Eng Eong, who co-founded Tychan, told the media via video conference on June 10 that the drug could lead to its use to temporarily protect against Covid-19 infection, if trials prove successful.

He said antibody drugs tend to be effective for about two to three weeks per dose.

Those who could benefit from a dose are frontline healthcare workers and travellers.

The drug is now known as TY027.

Reduce problems treating Covid-19

Ooi said if the drug is used to treat confirmed Covid-19 cases, it “could reduce a lot of problems we face right now”, such as hospitals having the limited ventilators.

Some Covid-19 patients fall sick for a long time and require ventilators, without which, they may die, said Ooi, a professor and deputy director of Duke-NUS Medical School’s emerging infectious diseases programme.

He added: “We hope that this treatment that we have will reduce the number of people who go into such a severe (state), and hopefully the number of people who die from Covid-19 can be kept at a minimum.”

Could still take months

But Ooi noted that the outcome of the Phase 1 clinical safety trial will determine when the the drug can be administered.

This trial will be conducted by SingHealth’s investigational medicine unit, and it will undergo more tests.

This process could still take months.

The focus will be on evaluating the safety of the drug and how the body reacts to it.

There is currently no proven antibody-based treatment for Covid-19, nor is there licensed vaccine.


The Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of Health, the Economic Development Board and other government agencies are also involved in this drug's development.

This particular drug shortlisted for treatment was identified as being the most promising among several antibodies that demonstrated 100 per cent neutralisation against live SARS-CoV-2.

Tychan noted that the development of this antibody was fast-tracked.

The shortened timeline was achieved as it had prior experience in the development of drugs for Zika and Yellow fever.

These treatments took nine months and seven months respectively, from design to first in-human infusion. 

Such development typically takes 12 to 18 months.

Top photo via Unsplash