CALGARY -- A Calgary company is developing a new drug that could reduce the need for COVID-19 patients to use ventilators.

Jay Chowdhury spent three weeks on a ventilator after contracting COVID-19 and says it was a challenging experience.

"I had an ulcer on my mouth from the ventilator," he said, adding that he experienced side effects like losing the ability to speak for the first 10 days he was on the ventilator.

Now, some Calgary researchers are hoping a new drug can keep people from ever requiring a ventilator in the first place.

Nearly a decade ago, they began developing a drug that lubricates and quickly reopens a patient's airwaves, hopefully allowing people who would otherwise be destined for a ventilator from ever having to use one in the first place.


The drug, developed by SolAeroMed, was originally conceived of as a treatment for everything from asthma to cystic fibrosis, but the onset of COVID-19 has sped up its development.

It's been stage approved for development by health authorities - and the pandemic has generated something that could potentially accelerate the process, namely a large study group of patients exhibiting the appropriate symptoms.

"It's very difficult to find and treat patients who are that sick," said SolAero Med's co-founder and CEO John Dennis. "We (now) have a surge of patients who are available to us, so we are taking advantage of that to show our treatment will work. Normally, we couldn't do that."

Researchers hope eventually to reduce the number of people who ever need a ventilator, a process Chowdhury says would be welcome.

"It's (a ventilator hose) very painful," Chowdhury says. "It's like pushing a thick pipe through your mouth into your stomach."

The company is now looking for funding to launch clinical trials which could start in Calgary and Lethbridge in a few weeks.