Forging ahead with their lead drug candidate, PharmAust (ASX: PAA) is expanding on their COVID-19 program. Their new angle is to investigate the effects of monepantel (MPL) on human T-lymphotropic virus-1 (HTLV-1) infections in partnership with leading biomedical research organisation, the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute (WEHI), based in Melbourne.
The HTLV-1 virus is a cancer inducing virus targeting the immune system. Transmitted through infected bodily fluids, the virus leads to leukaemia/ lymphoma and affects approximately 10-20 million people worldwide.
The highest incidence of the virus is in Japan. Closer to home, several central Australian indigenous communities have infection rates above 60%. Aside from rapidly progressive cancer, the virus can also cause pulmonary disease, inflammatory disorders and significant morbidity.
Monepantel, PharmAust’s repurposed drug, has effects on cancer progression and neurodegenerative diseases. The drug is currently being investigated for indications such as motor neurone disease, solid tumours and canine lymphoma.
Having already proven MPL’s antiviral activity in two independent labs, PharmAust’s partnership with WEHI will broaden the scope of research into monepantel’s antiviral activity and follows on from their COVID-19 work. The research will be conducted by a group led by Professor Marc Pellegrini with preliminary data expected in December 2021.
Chief Scientific Officer of PharmAust, Dr. Richard Mollard said: “PharmAust is pleased to have the opportunity to work again with Professor Marc Pellegrini’s group at WEHI. While PharmAust continues MPL manufacture and tablet production for clinical trials, this work provides an excellent opportunity to build our MPL antiviral knowledge base. While our COVID-19 work is ongoing, having a more extensive preclinical data package describing MPL’s antiviral activity in more general terms would strengthen PharmAust’s position going into any antiviral clinical trial, including for COVID-19.”
The fee payable to WEHI under the research agreement is not expected to have an impact on PharmAust.