Diversified conglomerate, ITC, is developing a nasal spray for Covid-19 prevention for which it has initiated clinical trials.
An ITC spokesperson confirmed the development but said, “We are unable to share more details at the current moment as the clinical trials are underway.”
However, sources indicated that the product was being steered by the ITC Life Sciences and Technology Centre (LSTC) in Bangalore and it had the potential to be effective in preventing infection as well as transmission of Covid-19. Internal trials had also found it to be effective against other viruses like common cold.
The trials could take about three months, they said. The company has received approvals from ethics committees and is registered with Clinical Trial Registry - India (CTRI), sources added.
Meanwhile, antimicrobial nasal and mouth sprays have been gaining popularity in recent months. Pharma majors like Cipla, Glenmark have tried their hands at this.
Cipla, for example, launched Naselin antiviral nasal spray with povidone iodine that can act as a first line of defence against SARS-CoV-2 virus. The nasal spray has anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal properties that can offer protection against viruses and other germs that cause common upper respiratory tract illnesses like, cold, sinusitis or flu.
Glenmark has tied up with Canadian biotech firm SaNOtize to manufacture, market, and distribute its NONS for Covid-19 treatment in India and other Asian markets. Glenmark aims to launch the NONS under the brand Fabispray in the second half of the 2021-22 financial year.
The company is now conducting phase 3 trials in India to see its effectiveness against Covid-19, while a major clinical trial by SaNOtize was being conducted in Canada over 4000 people to see if this drug also works in the prevention of Covid-19.
Typically these sprays work by killing pathogens in the upper airways. For example, NONS is designed to kill coronavirus in the upper airways, preventing it from incubating and spreading to the lungs.
If trials show that these work in prevention, there could be several uses of such sprays – especially with schools, colleges, offices and public transport opening.
Cadila Healthcare had developed a product called Viroshield, an enzyme based mouth spray, and also done a pilot. It has not yet launched the product commercially. Its enzyme based formulation was designed to break viral proteins, creating a protective barrier to guard the mouth and throat from different viruses.
ITC LSTC has around 350 scientists who broadly work on six research platforms – health & wellness, beauty & hygiene, agro forestry & crop sciences, sustainable packaging, consumer & sensory sciences and measurement sciences.
According to Sagacious IP, a global intellectual property research and consulting firm, ITC topped the list of Indian private companies that filed patents in India in healthcare and pharma between 2015-2020 at 453 filings. The ranking was part of its report on the pharma and healthcare sector earlier this year.
It had further noted that ITC was among the top 15 companies to file patents in India.
Though not yet confirmed, the nasal spray would most likely be launched under the “Savlon” brand. Through the Covid-19 pandemic, ITC had launched a slew of products – from disinfectant sprays, masks to wipes –under the Savlon brand in keeping with consumer requirements.
That pushed the Savlon consumer spend to more than Rs 1,000 crore in FY21, a four-fold jump over the previous year and about 15-16 times since its acquisition in 2015.
The nasal spray, according to sources, is to build on the health and hygiene platform.
Diversification is not quite new to ITC. In a bid to hedge against headwinds in cigarettes it had created multiple drivers of growth and the two-decade-old non-cigarettes FMCG (of which Savlon is a part) is the youngest entrant in the portfolio.