Therapy targets the coronavirus PLPRO enzyme essential for the evasion of host immune response.
Infex Therapeutics, a company focusing on anti-infectives, has revealed the nomination of a candidate for its COV-X programme.
The candidate for COV-X – Infex’s novel first-in-class small molecule oral pan-coronavirus PLPRO inhibitor – was chosen after in vivo efficacy data emerged in a murine SARS-CoV-2 model that showed an almost complete decrease in SARS-CoV-2 viral load in the lungs.
Meanwhile, it also delivered a sound safety profile when compared to nirmatrelvir, Pfizer’s approved MPRO inhibitor.
In contrast to nirmatrelvir, COV-X targets the key coronavirus PLPRO enzyme. This enzyme is essential for viral replication and evasion of host immune response. Consequently, COV-X has the potential for spectrum efficacy against new coronaviruses or variants, which have the risk of widening into a pandemic.
In recent weeks, the development of new SARS-CoV-2 variants – resistant to nirmatrelvir – has been reported. Infex’s COV-X programme potentially offers an alternative for treating resistant strains, either as a stand-alone therapy or when combined with MPRO drugs.
Dr Peter Jackson, chief executive officer at Infex Therapeutics, was encouraged by the candidate data: “With global SARS-CoV-2 vaccines showing increasing weakness against new variants, it will be essential to develop effective broad-spectrum antivirals that can future-proof against new coronaviruses with pandemic potential.”
He added: “Following encouraging pre-clinical data in comparison with Pfizer’s MPRO inhibitor nirmatrelvir, we have high hopes for our nominated candidate for our COV-X programme. COV-X demonstrated superior efficacy and DMPK profile to nirmatrelvir, and its ability to reduce viral load in the lungs is key to minimising the chances of long-term viral conditions, such as long COVID.
“Given COV-X’s outstanding profile and potential value, we are now seeking a global pharmaceutical partner to accelerate its development towards commercialisation.”
Having delivered a pre-clinical candidate, COV-X is currently undertaking further research to provide a comprehensive safety profile ahead of clinical stage development.