Molecular Partners, a biopharmaceutical company based in Schlieren in the canton of Zurich, has subjected its Covid-19 drug to clinical efficacy tests on animal models. The DARPin candidates MP0420 and MP0423 were used in this process. Experts in virology from the Free University of Berlin developed an aggressive virus challenge model for this, before testing the drugs on hamsters. To begin with, the hamsters were infected with SARS-CoV-2 and subsequently either treated by way of select doses of MP0420 or MP0423, or in some cases were administered a placebo, at either 0, 6 or 24 hours, as detailed in a press release. Over the course of the five-day experiment, all animals treated in this way recovered and survived, while 83 percent of the animals in the placebo group had to be euthanized due to the severity of the progression of the disease.
“The clinical efficacy observed in both prophylactic and post exposure settings, especially in the context of the severity of disease displayed by our novel COVID-19 model, holds promise for this class of virus-neutralizing inhibitors in later line settings”, comments Jakob Trimpert, Lead Investigator of the study from the Institute of Virology at the Free University of Berlin, in the press release. Patrick Amstutz, Chief Executive Officer at Molecular Partners, explained: “This model might be the only one that mimics a severe disease progression in humans, as most hamsters become terminally ill as early as day two after viral infection”.
The first in-human studies for MP0420 are provisionally scheduled to begin in November 2020, while clinical trials for the second antiviral candidate, MP0423, are likely to be initiated in the first half-year in 2021.