Westlake Village-based MannKind became the latest company to turn its efforts toward treating the COVID-19 pandemic, with the announcement of a collaboration with a Los Angeles firm that aims to adapt its inhalable drug delivery technology to combat the respiratory infection.
The company best known for its inhalable insulin product Afrezza said it would reorient its research and development resources to pursue compounds that “may have the potential to address the morbidity and mortality associated with respiratory viral infections,” like that caused by the coronavirus.
A vaccine for the coronavirus is likely still one to two years away, said Brian Marckx, senior med-tech analyst with Zacks’ small-cap research arm.
But antiviral products or other treatments for the symptoms of the infection could move relatively quickly through development and approval.
With its pulmonary delivery products, the Westlake Village firm could be well placed to treat symptoms of COVID-19 caused by the coronavirus, Marckx said.
“MannKind certainly has fully validated — no question about that — the delivery technology,” Marckx said. “They’ve shown they can deliver deep into the lungs.”
The partnership with Los Angeles-based Immix Biopharma aims to rapidly prototype an inhalable dry powder formulation of a treatment for acute respiratory distress syndrome, a complication of COVID-19, MannKind said in a news release March 17.
Immix is a privately held drug delivery company with four products under development to treat cancer.
Shares for MannKind popped 25 percent with the news, before declining around 6 percent in the market selloff March 18 to 99 cents per share.
The company has other drugs under development, including pulmonary arterial hypertension treatment treprostinil, in partnership with New Hampshire firm United Therapeutics, and a licensing and collaboration agreement with Seattle-based Receptor Life Sciences to develop cannabinoid compounds.
MannKind said it was “adjusting research and development resources that were reserved for its pipeline of investigational products for treating serious lung diseases,” to prioritize a COVID-19 treatment.
As of the end of 2019, the company had racked up an overall deficit of $3 billion and had $120.3 million in outstanding debt principal, according to its annual report Feb. 25. It had $29.9 million in cash on hand, with some $20 million in short-term investments.
The company has significant under-utilized manufacturing capacity at its 328,000-square-foot Danbury, Conn. R&D facility, Marckx said, potentially giving it the bandwidth to explore a coronavirus treatment should it be able to secure funding.
Another Westlake Village drug development firm, GT Biopharma, previously announced a collaboration with the U.S. subsidiary of a Chinese company to produce and test its own therapeutic platform for treatment of infected patients.
Though the outbreak and resulting restrictions have wreaked havoc on businesses and financial markets nationwide, “for some companies, it’s definitely an opportunity, especially when there are a lot of federal dollars being thrown at it,” Marckx said.
• Contact Marissa Nall at [email protected]