A collaboration between scientists at one of the UK's leading University drug discovery centres and the UK based biotech company ReViral has led to the development of a drug aimed at treating people suffering from respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) - a common and potentially life-threatening lung condition affecting babies, the immune-compromised and the elderly.
The team at the University of Sussex's Sussex Drug Discovery Centre worked together with ReViral in a lead optimisation programme to design and synthesise a new drug called 'RV521'. This work was funded by a Wellcome Trust Seeding Drug Discovery Award, received by ReViral to support the project.
RV521 is the first drug originating from work performed at the Sussex Drug Discovery Centre to reach the clinical trial phase. ReViral has now begun phase one clinical trials with RV521 in 110 healthy volunteers before being tested further in patients. The primary aim of the clinical trial is to test the safety and tolerability in healthy volunteers before then evaluating the efficacy in patients.
There are 64 million people infected with RSV a year resulting in an estimated 160,000 deaths per year worldwide. The virus causes cold-like symptoms which can develop into bronchitis or pneumonia. Most children have been infected with the virus by the age of two, and those at most risk include premature babies. Scientists hope the new drug, if successful, will be used as a frontline treatment for people who often develop infections such as new-borns, the elderly and those with impaired immune systems.
Professor Simon Ward, Director of the Sussex Drug Discovery Centre, said: 'This exciting collaboration between our drug discovery centre and ReViral is a clear demonstration of the role academic centres of drug discovery can play in the new landscape of drug discovery taking shape in the UK.
"We are very pleased to see the first of our scientific collaborations mature into this stage of clinical testing, and we anticipate further success shortly."
Dr Eddy Littler, CEO of ReViral, said: "The progression of RV521 to the clinic is a significant achievement for the Company and marks a major step forward in developing a potential new therapy against respiratory syncytial virus.
"If ReViral's Phase 1 clinical studies are successful, in showing levels of compound which are antiviral and with an acceptable safety profile, then the company intends to progress RV521 to clinical proof of concept in adult volunteers."
The Sussex Drug Discovery Centre was setup under the University's School of Life Sciences four years ago and works to discover new drugs for conditions with a high unmet medical need - such as infectious diseases, certain cancers and mental health disorders. The Centre is now home to over 60 scientists, roughly two-thirds of whom previously worked in the pharmaceutical industry.
Professor Laurence Pearl, Head of the School of Life Sciences, said: 'The Sussex Drug Discovery Centre was established to bring a new academic approach to drug discovery in areas of high unmet medical need - this specifically includes infectious diseases, cancer, neurological and psychiatric disorders.
"We are delighted that the collaboration with ReViral has led to a novel compound entering clinical trials against a serious viral infection that causes severe and life-threatening infections in both the young and old."
About the University of Sussex's School of Life Sciences: Life Sciences is one of the largest academic schools at the University of Sussex. With 96 per cent of its research rated as world leading, internationally excellent or internationally recognised (REF 2014), it is among the leading research hubs for the biological sciences in the UK. The School is home to some prestigious research centres including the Genome Damage and Stability Centre and the Sussex Drug Discovery Centre, where academics work with industry to translate scientific advances into real-world benefits for patients. More information about the Drug Discovery Centre can be found here.
The University is also planning a new state-of-the-art Life Sciences building which will transform the way scientists carry out research and will provide students with a high-tech learning experience. The world-renowned School boasts two former Nobel Prize-winning scientists, Sir Harry Kroto and Sir John Cornforth, and is known for its high-quality teaching and ground-breaking research into conditions such as cancer and neurodegeneration, as well as driving major advances in areas such as ecology and conservation, neuroscience and drug discovery.
About ReViral: ReViral is an antiviral drug discovery, and development company focused on novel treatments for diseases caused by the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).
Founded in 2011, ReViral has an experienced R&D leadership team with a successful track record in antiviral drug discovery and development. The company has developed a novel antiviral programme targeting RSV fusion with highly potent, orally bioavailable inhibitors, strong drug-like characteristics and good pharmacokinetic properties offering versatility in the route of administration.
In 2012 ReViral won a significant Seeding Drug Discovery Award from the Wellcome Trust to develop its RSV fusion inhibitors to completion of IND filing. The company also has an RSV replication programme at an earlier stage of development and plans to expand its pipeline. In September 2015, ReViral completed a $21 million Series A funding round from a group of leading venture capital investors including Edmond de Rothschild Investment Partners, OrbiMed, and Brace Pharma Capital.
About Wellcome: Wellcome exists to improve health for everyone by helping great ideas to thrive. We're a global charitable foundation, both politically and financially independent. We support scientists and researchers, take on big problems, fuel imaginations and spark debate.