A biotechnology startup in Japan's Fukuoka Prefecture is partnering with local authorities in an effort to develop a drug to treat COVID-19 using its RNA technology.

Bonac Corp., based in Kurume in the southwestern prefecture, says only two other companies in the world are similarly trying to develop a nucleic acid medicine to treat the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Under an agreement struck between the company and the Fukuoka prefectural government earlier this week, they will aim at developing an inhaled drug that can directly work on the patient's lungs, thus having few side effects.

(Bonac Corp. CEO Hirotake Hayashi (R) and Fukuoka Gov. Hiroshi Ogawa pose for photos during a ceremony to sign an agreement on joint effort to develop a drug to treat novel coronavirus on May 18, 2020)

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The efficacy of a prospective drug will be examined at the Fukuoka Institute of Health and Environmental Sciences, a biosafety level 3 facility run by the prefectural government, with the goal of starting a clinical trial on patients in April 2022.

Bonac, established in 2010, says that by using its "RNA interference technology," the firm will attempt to create a drug that can decompose the genomic RNA of the coronavirus and exert anti-viral effects in infected patients.

DNA and RNA, which are collectively called nucleic acids, can be found in the cells of all living organisms. Their tasks are to store and transmit genetic information.

"The results of first in vitro screenings indicate our proprietary platform technology in nucleic acid medicine is directly applicable to COVID-19," said CEO Hirotake Hayashi in a statement.