Led by Associate Professor Steven Tong, a Royal Melbourne Hospital infectious diseases clinician and co-lead of clinical research at the Doherty Institute, the Australasian COVID-19 Trial (ASCOT) opened its first site at the Royal Melbourne Hospital in mid-April, with plans to recruit patients at over 70 hospitals across the country, in every state and territory, alongside 11 hospitals in New Zealand.
As a ‘new disease’ there are currently no treatments with established effectiveness for COVID-19.
However, there are multiple treatment options, and combinations, that may be effective. Laboratory tests have shown that an existing drug currently used to treat HIV, and another used to treat arthritis and prevent and treat malaria, may stop SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in its tracks.
Minderoo Foundation announced earlier this month it had committed AU$160 million to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, including sourcing and transporting millions of pieces of personal protective equipment and medical supplies from China to Australia.
Minderoo Foundation Chairman Dr Andrew Forrest AO said a key component of the Foundation’s pledge to defeat the virus was funding research and clinical trials.
“We are most excited about supporting high quality clinical trials that can help patients and healthcare workers during this pandemic, not after it has passed. The ASCOT trial being led by the Doherty Institute is clearly one such trial,” Dr Forrest said.
“This trial will address the approximate 20 per cent of COVID-19 sufferers who have to go to hospital, and aims to help reduce the number of those who would typically progress to intensive care.”
University of Melbourne Professor Sharon Lewin, Director of the Doherty Institute, thanked Minderoo Foundation for its generous support and said clinical trials were crucial for testing the safety and efficacy of potential treatments for COVID-19.
“The aim of ASCOT is to test whether using these drugs will prevent patients deteriorating to the point of needing a ventilator in the intensive care unit,” Professor Lewin said.