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Medivir and Janssen in dengue fever research alliance

Published on 14/02/11 at 12:19pm
The Aedes aegypti mosquito can spread dengue fever, Chikungunya and yellow fever

Medivir, the speciality pharma company focused on infectious diseases, it to collaborate with Janssen on discovering and developing new medicines for dengue virus infection.

The R&D programme will focus on developing drugs which inhibit the dengue virus’ NS3 protease activity, and the partners will aim to develop drugs to prevent as well as treat infection.

Both parties will contribute equal resources to the research and Medivir has an option to continue to contribute equal funding for the non-clinical and clinical development stages.

Each company will have the option of developing and commercialising any molecules discovered. If both parties remain in the collaboration until product approval, Janssen will be responsible for commercialisation, and Medivir will receive pre-agreed royalties.

Dengue fever is a mosquito-borne viral infection, causing a severe debilitating fever, rash, and muscle and joint pain. In an unpredictable subset of cases, Dengue haemorrhagic fever occurs, which may lead to vascular leakage and Dengue shock syndrome, a potentially lethal condition. Dengue virus infection is a major problem in sub-tropical regions where the incidence has increased 30-fold over the last 50 years. Up to 50 million infections are now estimated to occur annually in more than 100 endemic countries and as the disease continues to spread, approximately one third of the world's population is at risk.

Dengue haemorrhagic fever and Dengue shock syndrome contribute significantly to hospitalisation costs in endemic regions. This growing prevalence has not been met by any significant advances in treatment and the annual death rate from dengue infection is approximately 30,000.

Development approach

Both companies have expertise and experience in antiviral research, and inhibition of the dengue NS3 protease is considered to be an attractive target for new drugs.

NS3 protease plays a crucial role in viral replication, and drug candidates that inhibit the dengue NS3 protease could help control of outbreaks in endemic areas. In addition, an NS3 protease inhibitor with therapeutic benefit could be used to treat ongoing viral infections.

Medivir has extensive expertise and knowledge in the discovery of protease inhibitors and the company's lead drug TMC435, for the treatment of hepatitis C, which is partnered with Tibotec (an affiliate of Janssen).

The drug has recently reported positive interim data in three Phase IIb studies. Medivir has further partnerships with Tibotec that utilise Medivir's unparalleled knowledge in the discovery and development of treatments for infectious diseases, including partnerships on hepatitis C polymerase and HIV protease inhibitor drugs.

Ron Long, chief executive and President of Medivir commenting on the announcement said: "Medivir has strong experience in the discovery of protease inhibitors for the treatment of infectious diseases and we are delighted to be collaborating with Janssen in this important disease area.

Long said the new strategic collaboration would help it to retain more value in products by taking them further into development and securing a much more active role in R&D collaborations.

“We believe that dengue NS3 protease inhibitors offer the best prospect for effective treatment of dengue fever and we look forward to working closely with our partner to take this project forward,” he concluded.

Sanofi-Aventis has a new dengue fever vaccine currently entering large scale trials in humans.  GSK is also developing a vaccine for the disease in collaboration with Brazilian firm Fiocruz.


Andrew McConaghie

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