Trio unites to develop antiviral drugs for dengue virus

The collaboration will be supported by a Seeding Drug Discovery Award from the Wellcome Trust

Kelsey Kaustinen
LONDON—Researchers from Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. andthe University of Leuven (KU Leuven) in Belgium, together with the Wellcome Trust, arecollaborating for the discovery and development of antiviral drugs to preventand treat dengue infection.
 
Per the terms of the agreement, Janssen will make an upfrontpayment, as well as milestone payments based on the achievement of development,regulatory and sales goals. KU Leuven also stands to receive royalties on netsales of any future products that are discovered or developed under thiscollaboration. At the end of the collaboration, Janssen will have the option tofurther develop the candidate drug to the point of regulatory approval. Theagreement builds on a current three-year discovery program at the RegaInstitute and the Centre for Drug Design and Discovery (CD3) at KU Leuven,which is supported by a Wellcome Trust Seeding Drug Discovery Award.
 
"This agreement again confirms the value of combiningexcellent academic research with the strengths and capabilities of CD3 fordiscovering innovative therapies," Patrick Chaltin, managing director of CD3 atKU Leuven, said in a press release. "We are very excited to continue thedevelopment of the dengue antivirals together with Janssen and the WellcomeTrust."
 
 
Under the existing program, researchers identified a seriesof chemical compounds that proved to be highly potent inhibitors of denguevirus replication and are active against all four serotypes of the virus,including clinical isolates. These compounds boast a novel mechanism of actionand a high barrier to resistance, and have produced proof-of-concept data inanimal models. This new collaboration with Janssen's Infectious Diseases andVaccines unit will, along with an additional Seeding Drug Discovery Award fromthe Wellcome Trust, will support the advancement of the compounds toward afirst-in-class drug candidate against dengue virus.
 
 
"It was a great experience to work with CD3 and the WellcomeTrust to discover this new class of dengue antivirals, which can be furtherdeveloped by Janssen as the first potential medication to prevent and treatinfections with the dengue virus," Prof. Johan Neyts of the Rega Institute, KULeuven, commented in a statement.
 
 
"We urgently need dengue medications that combat the virusrather than the symptoms of infection. This agreement highlights the importanceof seed funds, like the awards provided under Seeding Drug Discovery, to reducethe risk of drug discovery programs so that they become attractive to partnerswith the ability to bring a product to market," said Ted Bianco, director ofTechnology Transfer and acting director of the Wellcome Trust. "We welcome thisstrategic collaboration, bringing together a world-leading academic drugdiscovery group and an industry partner with an outstanding track record in thedevelopment of antivirals, to give the program the best possible chances ofsuccess."
 
Dengue fever, also known as breakbone fever, is aninfectious tropical disease caused by the dengue virus, which is spread bymosquitoes. This disease presents with severe fever, rash, headaches and muscleand joint pain, and can be fatal. The dengue virus is endemic in many tropicalregions, with more than 2.5 billion people at risk from the disease. The WorldHealth Organization estimates that there may be 50 million to 100 milliondengue infections globally each year. There are currently no approved vaccinesfor the dengue virus. 
 
 
SOURCE: Wellcome Trust press release

Kelsey Kaustinen

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