Halifax-based biopharmaceutical company Appili Therapeutics has announced that Health Canada has approved its Phase 2 clinical trial evaluating Favipiravir as a prophylactic agent against COVID-19 outbreaks.

This will be the first clinical study to examine the use of Favipiravir for outbreak control, the company said in a statement.

Researchers will enroll about 760 subjects, both residents and staff, at 16 long-term care homes in Ontario. The National Institute on Ageing has estimated that as of May 6, some 82 percent of deaths related to COVID-19 in Canada were associated with long-term care facilities, the statement said.

“Given the severity of COVID-19 amongst the elderly, and the evidence of ongoing transmission with severe outcomes in LTCHs (care homes), it is critical to develop interventions that minimize the spread of disease in this setting. As vaccines and treatment for COVID-19 remain unavailable, we must explore all possible solutions,” said Dr. Allison McGeer, senior clinician scientist at Sinai Health’s Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute in Toronto, and the study’s primary investigator.

Favipiravir is a broad-spectrum antiviral approved in Japan under the brand name Avigan. Recent studies suggest it may be useful in the treatment of COVID-19. With drug donated by FUJIFILM Toyama Chemical, Appili will conduct the trial with infectious disease specialists at Sinai Health in Toronto, the University of Toronto, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, and Unity Health Toronto.

“Industry and academia are coming together in unprecedented ways to mitigate this crisis, and Appili is proud to be part of this unique collaboration,” said Yoav Golan, the company’s Chief Medical Officer.

In February, Appili Therapeutics raised $10.25 million by selling shares and warrants to investors on the TSX Venture exchange.