December 22, 2021

World-leading research into COVID-19 treatment

Professor Don Campbell, Northern Health’s Director of Hospital without Walls Program, is pioneering a new trial into COVID-19 treatment.

Northern Health recently welcomed the Minister for Innovation, Medical Research and the Digital Economy, The Hon. Jaala Pulford, to announce a $4.2 million grant for University of Melbourne and Monash University to establish a six-month clinical trial.

The trial involves using a simple heparin-based nasal spray to be used in households as both early treatment where a person has coronavirus and post exposure prophylaxis for household family members.

The second most widely used drug in the world and primarily prescribed as a blood-thinner to treat or prevent blood clots, heparin forms the base of the nasal spray treatment which is already being hailed as a success for its easy administration, stability at room temperature and global availability.

The Intra Nasal HEpaRin Trial (INHERIT) will be led by Northern Hospital, using the Covid (Oximetry) Monitoring and Early Treatment (COMET) platform which Northern Health has put in place as part of its Covid Community response, that has enabled researchers to access and treat patients within 24 hours of their diagnosis, speeding up treatment and providing remote patient monitoring through portable oximeter devices that measure oxygen levels in blood.

Professor Don Campbell initiated the research into using heparin for treatment of COVID-19.

He says, “What started as an idea that heparin might play a role in infection in the nose, and therefore treatment/prophylaxis for COVID- 19, has evolved into a testable hypothesis. Getting funded for this trial is the culmination of 20 months of intense collaborative effort from dedicated scientists including virologists from the Doherty Research Institute and researchers from Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, CSIRO and Victorian hospital-based clinicians as well as researchers from Oxford University. The support of our doctors and our CEO at Northern Health has been incredibly important.”

Professor Campbell has been working extensively with the Director of Lung Health Research at University of Melbourne, Professor Gary Anderson, the Director of Medicines – Manufacturing Innovation Centre at Monash University, Professor Michelle McIntosh, and Professor Paul Monagle, Haematologist and Professor of Paediatrics, Murdoch Childrens Research Institute.

“The team has done everything possible in the laboratory to suggest this treatment will be effective, but the only way to answer the question is with a robust clinical trial,” explained Professor McIntosh.

“Our study shows immense potential – studies show that intranasal heparin can wrap around the virus like a python, preventing it from infecting you or spreading the virus to others,” said Professor Anderson.

“Coronavirus is not going away any time soon and our amazing researchers are doing work that stands to make a real difference. These projects will benefit not just Victorians but people around the world,” said Jaala Pulford, Minister for Innovation, Medical Research and the Digital Economy.


Spraying the heparin nasal spray


Featured Image (left to right): Siva Sivarajah, Northern Health Chief Executive; Professor Don Campbell, Director Hospital without Walls; Bronwyn Halfpenny MP; The Hon. Jaala Pulford, Minister for Innovation, Medical Research and the Digital Economy; Professor Gary Anderson, Director of Lung Health Research Centre at University of Melbourne; Professor Michelle McIntosh, Director of Medicines – Manufacturing Innovation Centre at Monash University.