A Timeline to Heparin in COVID-19 Patients

Perspective on how the anticoagulant could progress to human trials and potentially, marketing use for coronavirus prevention.

Now that Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) investigators have presented data showing the binding and potentially inhibitive nature of heparin on SARS-CoV-2 infection, it’s time to understand what the anticoagulant’s absolute effect is on the coronavirus.

Could it prevent coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19)? Or maybe it could serve as an early therapy in just-diagnosed patients?

In an interview with Contagion, RPI study author and professor Bob Linhardt, PhD, a glycoscientist, discussed the next steps of his team’s research into heparin.

Namely, he explained how that, given the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) already permits the marketing of the blood thinner, it may stand to benefit from an expedited pathway if there’s proven COVID-19 benefit—much like remdesivir.

He also discussed the process of adapting the injectable drug to an inhalant, nebulizer dose—which is actually simpler than anticipated.

“There’s little bleeding risk here, and we’d only be exploring the antiviral activity of heparin by this route,” Linhardt said.

Much depends on the results from their ongoing animal model trial assessing nebulized, nasal-spray, and inhaled-dose heparin options in infected animals. But a human trial is very close.

“If we had a partner, we could do a nasal spray right away—because I think the safety would be viewed as little risk, and heparin is an already-approved drug, so it’d be like an off-label use,” he explained.