The Federal Office for Public Health (FOPH) has identified great potential in a Covid-19 drug developed by Molecular Partners. As a result, it has signed a reservation contact with the firm based in Schlieren in the canton of Zurich. With this agreement, the Swiss government has secured access to the first 200,000 doses of the new drug in addition to the right to be supplied with up to three million extra doses. According to the information presented in a media release from Molecular Partners, the government is to pay a reservation fee in the high single digit million area in Swiss francs.
The drug developed by Molecular Partners is an immunotherapeutic agent. It is primarily designed to treat infected patients, although under certain circumstances it could also be administered on a prophylactic basis to protect against infection. Clinical trials are planned to commence in the fall of 2020.
Molecular Partners was founded in 2004 as a spin-off from the University of Zurich and is headquartered at Bio-Technopark Schlieren-Zurich. The company is working on the development of a proprietary class of drugs known as DARPins (Designed Ankyrin Repeat Proteins). These are artificial proteins that can detect and bind antigens. They are smaller and more stable than conventional antibodies and can be manufactured in bacterial cells in a cost-effective manner.
The company has identified several DARPins that can neutralize the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Its potential Covid-19 drug named MP0420 is based on a three-in-one DARPin architecture. “Mono-DARPin modules that neutralize the virus are formatted into multi-DARPin candidates that block viral penetration of human cells at highest potency and with the potential to prevent viral escape”, explains the FOPH in its press release.
“The Swiss Government’s support in advancing our novel antiviral DARPin program is an encouraging signal”, comments Patrick Amstutz, CEO of Molecular Partners. In the press release, he also highlights the promising preclinical data. In addition, Molecular Partners recently secured production capacities for its new drug candidate. The internationally operating company AGC Biologics will accordingly assume manufacturing responsibilities for MP0420.
The FOPH is holding talks with several companies that are producing promising drug candidates to combat the coronavirus. Following the US firm Moderna, Molecular Partners is so far the second company to have won over the Swiss government.