Patients infected with SARS-CoV-2 who end up at the ICU and require oxygen have only limited treatment options. Already obtained data suggest that these patients could benefit from treatment with Leukine® to manage the infection and prevent secondary (bacterial) infections. It is already known that this growth factor can enhance innate immune response of macrophages in the lungs and this helps to protect the host from influenza, but the use in COVID-19 patients is investigational.  


The primary goal of this UZGent sponsored clinical trial is to investigate the efficacy of sargramostim (Leukine®, Partner therapeutics), a growth factor that is known for its beneficial effects in viral pneumonia in the improvement of oxygenation. Moreover, this project will also look at the short –and long-term outcome of patients treated with Leukine®.  

More information on the trial 

Facts & Figures

Start date:
End date:
COVID19 call

Thematic area

Epidemic control 

Novel molecular insights and treatment options in COVID-19 patients to guide treatment of progressed disease stages, with a particular focus on patients with reduced blood oxygenation levels.


  • Downstream molecular analysis

VIB: ‎€376.000

  • Setup clinical trial


  • Study medication

Partner Therapeutics




Martin Guilliams • Yvan Saeys 

VIB-UGent-UZ Gent 

Bart Lambrecht

UGent-UZ Gent 

Pieter Depuydt • Eva Van Braeckel • HiRUZ

Contribution to the project

To study the effect of Leukine® on immune functioning, monocytes and dendritic cells obtained from blood samples from patients will be characterized. In addition, cytokine and chemokine levels will also be investigated (IRC) and single cell RNA will be sequenced (IRC).  

Expected impact

This forerunner trial sponsored by UZGent will greatly aid in the understanding of -and fight against- SARS-CoV-2. One of the expected outcomes is halting disease progression from early acute hypoxic respiratory failure to acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). This could alleviate the pressure on ICU units during the current and future outbreaks.  

Prof. Bart Lambrecht underscores the importance of this trial: “Patients with COVID-19 who progress to acute hypoxic respiratory failure due to COVID-19 have very limited treatment options and a high mortality rate. We rapidly initiated clinical trials to investigate treatment options that provide the stimulus to restore immune homeostasis in the lungs and can promote lung repair mechanisms.” 


Sofie Bekaert, Manager Translational Program