Could PAA’s lead cancer drug treatment treat COVID-19?

By Jonathan Jackson. Published at Apr 17, 2020, in ASX Biotechs

PharmAust Limited (ASX:PAA) has entered into a Materials Transfer Agreement with the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research (WEHI) to test the effects of monepantel (MPL) on COVID-19 infections.

Monepantel is PharmAust’s lead drug candidate. It is a novel, potent and safe inhibitor of the mTOR pathway – a key driver of cancer.

MPL has been evaluated in Phase 1 clinical trials in humans and dogs; was well tolerated and produced a significant reduction in key prognostic biomarkers. PAA is uniquely positioned to commercialise MPL for treatment of human and veterinary cancers as it advances the drug in Phase 2 clinical trials.

Given the advancing nature of Monapantel, there is further community value in testing whether Monepantel’s mechanism of action in cancer may also prove to be beneficial in the treatment of certain viral diseases such as COVID-19.

There are currently no specific vaccines or treatments for COVID-19, however there are several clinical trials being conducted around the world to evaluate potential treatments.

Under the Transfer Agreement studies will be conducted by WEHI researcher and joint head of the Institute’s Infectious Diseases and Immune Defence division Professor Marc Pellegrini (MBBS BSc FRACP PhD FAHMS).

Professor Pellegrini is also an infectious disease clinician at the Royal Melbourne Hospital and is the recipient of an Australian National Health and Medical Research Council Excellence Award for his work on chronic infections.

Importantly for PharmAust, it will own all intellectual property results and rights generated from the studies.

PharmAust will pay a nominal fee to WEHI for undertaking the studies using monepantel and monepantel sulfone.

“We are delighted to be working with the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research on this timely and important project and delighted that Professor Marc Pellegrini has agreed to be the Investigator, ” PharmAust’s Executive Chairman Dr Roger Aston said.

The studies will commence shortly with preliminary data estimated to be delivered by WEIHI in May 2020.

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