Meet Don Campbell, an extraordinary medical professor in Melbourne, who believes he may have discovered a game-changer in the fight against COVID-19. His groundbreaking invention, a nasal spray, could be the key to curbing the spread of the virus and protecting Australians from its wrath.
The journey began in May 2020, just four months after COVID-19 made its way to Victoria. Don Campbell, who teaches at Monash University, had a lightbulb moment while casually ironing his clothes. He mentioned to his wife the idea of using heparin, a drug usually employed as an anticoagulant, as a nasal spray to block COVID-19. His wife’s supportive challenge, “What are you going to do about it?” ignited the spark to turn this idea into reality.
The nasal spray’s primary ingredient, heparin, has a long history in Professor Campbell’s life. His interest in heparin goes back almost four decades when he researched pulmonary fibrosis in the UK. Subsequently, his son’s diagnosis of Kawasaki disease piqued his curiosity about heparin’s potential therapeutic uses.
Years later, Professor Campbell stumbled upon research that indicated heparin’s ability to block the spread of influenza in laboratory settings. Armed with this knowledge, he hypothesized that it might have a similar effect on COVID-19.
To validate his idea, Professor Campbell sought the support of his colleagues, Professor Terry Nolan, and Professor Gary Anderson. They were convinced of its potential and successfully secured $4.2 million from the Andrews government to move forward with the project.
As they await further testing, Professor Campbell personally took the nasal spray twice a day, truly believing it protected him from contracting COVID-19. Their hope is to make the nasal spray available to the public by the end of next year.
To proceed with clinical trials, the team is looking for 400 families in Melbourne who are willing to participate in the study. Participants must be over five years old and either test positive for COVID-19 or have had close contact with someone who tested positive. These families will be given either the heparin nasal spray or a saline-based placebo, which they will use three times a day for ten days.
Professor Campbell reassures us of the safety of heparin, as it is one of the most widely used drugs globally and has been used as an intravenous anticoagulant for many decades.
The potential applications of this nasal spray are vast, with a focus on protecting vulnerable workers in healthcare, childcare, aged care facilities, schools, and during travel or public gatherings.
Though there’s still a road ahead before widespread use, Professor Campbell’s invention offers a promising step in our ongoing battle against COVID-19. With the support of Melbourne’s community, this nasal spray could become a critical tool in minimizing the virus’s impact on our lives.