Covid blueprint to transform new drugs for millions


The scientist who identified the first life-saving Covid drug will launch a project tomorrow to transform treatments for heart disease, dementia and arthritis.

Sir Martin Landray was the architect of the world-leading Recovery trial which identified the cheap steroid dexamethasone as an effective treatment.

His new not-for-profit organisation, Protas, will run low-cost, stripped-back clinical trials for the most common but often neglected diseases, which would also include depression and chronic respiratory disease.

Eighty-five per cent of debilitating illness in the world is caused by the ten most common diseases.

Landray said drug trials had become overly complicated and “hideously” expensive, and were failing to deliver effective, affordable drugs for patients.

Testing a drug typically costs more than a billion dollars and takes an average of seven years. When it comes to treating high cholesterol or blood pressure, companies aren’t willing “to take that billion-dollar bet”, Landray said. And if they do, the drugs end up costing so much that patients do not use them. A new class of cholesterol drugs called PCSK9 inhibitors, for example, emerged seven years ago as an alternative to statins but are rarely used because they cost £4,450 a year compared with £20 for statins.

By using the model of the Recovery trial — which has been credited with saving more than a million lives from Covid — Landray believes he can cut the cost of trials by more than 90 per cent.