CALGARY -- Researchers from the University of Calgary have helped develop a new drug that can block inflammation in the lungs, liver and kidneys and could help patients with COVID-19.

The scientific discovery began in the labs at the Cumming School of Medicine, and now the “LSALT peptide” study has advanced to phase two of clinical trials.

“Our work was all to do with bacterial infections and we noticed the same kind of event happened in human patients with COVID-19 so it provided a serendipity that we are able to now test LSALT,” said Stephen Robbins, one of the team members to uncover the novel process of inflammation in the lungs, liver and kidneys.

The drug also known as “Metablok” helps to block inflammation which is accumulation of white blood cells or neutrophils.

“Any tissue or organ where neutrophils can get recruited to can have benefit with this LSALT peptide," said Robbins. "People that are undergoing sepsis, acute lung injury, these are areas we think LSALT will have benefit."

Dr. Daniel Muruve, head of nephrology at University of Calgary and chief science officer for Arch Biopartners Inc., the company that is carrying out the study, says the goal is to make COVID-19 a milder infection and milder disease by reducing inflammation in patients.

“If we can keep the disease relatively mild and moderate where patients don’t need to be admitted to the intensive care unit that’s our goal," Muruve said,  "(and to) dampen the inflammatory response so that patients don’t develop severe disease that requires ICU (intensive care unit) admission.”

The first doses were administered to hospital patients this week in Florida and will begin screening patients in Louisiana and Turkey next  week, after government regulatory approvals for phase two.

Researchers say the first phase included 52 healthy volunteers who safely tolerated the LSALT peptide.

Dr. Muruve says the study is potentially looking to partner with Canadian hospitals if necessary.