Wellcome Trust, Janssen and KU Leuven are collaborating for dengue antiviral drugs. The collaboration will build on an existing three-year drug discovery program at the Rega Institute and the Center for Drug Design and Discovery (CD3) at KU Leuven, supported by a Wellcome Trust Seeding Drug Discovery Award.
This effort resulted in the identification of a series of chemical compounds that are highly potent inhibitors of dengue virus replication. The compounds have a novel mechanism of action, are active against all four serotypes of the dengue virus including clinical isolates, have a high barrier to resistance and have generated proof-of-concept data in animal models.
The alliance will enable the team to progress the compounds toward a first-in-class drug candidate for the prevention and treatment of infections with dengue virus. Janssen will have the option to further develop the candidate drug toward regulatory approval, with the goal of bringing the drug to patients globally.
Janssen will make an upfront payment and milestone payments based on achieving development, regulatory and sales goals. KU Leuven is also eligible to receive royalty payments on net sales of future products discovered or developed under the agreement.
Recent estimates indicate there may be as many as 390 million dengue infections across the globe each year, of which 96 million develop symptoms associated with the infection; however, currently there are no approved vaccines to prevent infection or approved drugs that stop the replication and spread of the dengue virus. Current approaches to treating the condition focus on alleviating symptoms.
Ted Bianco, director of technology transfer and acting director of the Wellcome Trust, said, "We urgently need dengue medications that combat the virus rather than the symptoms of infection. This agreement highlights the importance of seed funds, like the awards provided under Seeding Drug Discovery, to reduce the risk of drug discovery programs so that they become attractive to partners with the ability to bring a product to market.”