DURHAM – Inhalon Biopharma is developing a “muco-trapping” antibody platform that could be used to treat acute respiratory infections, including COVID-19, and the Durham-based startup has now been awarded a $7 million contract by the United States Army Medical Research & Development Command (USAMRDC).

The contract will allow the company to conduct a placebo-controlled Phase 1 and Phase 2a study of its technology in COVID-19 outpatients, the company shared in a statement.

The technology, currently designated IN-006, is described by the company as a potent, neutralizing monoclonal antibody that is being investigated as a possible treatment for COVID-19.

The company expects results of the study in 2022.

The Inhalon technology, described as the “muco-trapping” antibody platform, works by trapping a virus in airway mucus, which could prevent the local spread of an infection, potentially eliminating a virus from the lungs as the body naturally clears mucus.

“Inhalon’s unique ‘muco-trapping’ inhaled antibody platform is ideally suited to quickly halt the COVID-19 infection by concentrating antibody therapy in the respiratory tract where the virus proliferates,” said John Whelan, president and CEO of Inhalon Biopharma in a statement. “We are very pleased that USAMRDC has seen the potential in our breakthrough approach and chose to support our clinical studies, which we look forward to initiating this summer following productive discussions with the FDA.”

The therapy is expected to be able to be easily self-administered, which the company states means that critical drug supplies could be extended to more patients, and administration would require fewer medical staff and decrease the demand on medical facilities.

It is expected to treat other acute respiratory infections, as well.  The technology was developed by Professor Sam Lai at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and is licensed exclusively from UNC and Johns Hopkins University.  The company has received support from Breakout Labs and an a variety of angel investor syndicates.