ATLANTA—Dr. Richard Plemper, a professor in Georgia State University’s Institute for Biomedical Sciences (IBMS), has received a five-year, $5 million federal grant to develop an antiviral drug to treat influenza virus infections.
The grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases will support a new approach to curing infection by this devastating, potentially deadly virus. This particular funding mechanism is designed to advance translational research projects that have already met critical milestones toward development and have a high likelihood of advancing to clinical testing.
Plemper, the principal investigator, will collaborate with colleagues from the Emory Institute for Drug Development, the University of Georgia and DRIVE LLC as a private partner with an advisory role towards clinical development.
Influenza virus is the leading cause of respiratory viral infection worldwide. Human infection frequently results in hospitalization or even death, especially when patients are above 65 years of age or very young. Last year’s flu season, for instance, was one of the most severe in the last decade, resulting in record hospitalization rates and case fatalities from seasonal influenza. In typical non-pandemic years, influenza virus is responsible for more than 40,000 deaths in the United States, generating a major need to develop new strategies to better manage and treat influenza virus.
“The efficacy of the existing seasonal vaccine is moderate, especially in the elderly who are disproportionally at risk of severe disease, and drugs like Tamiflu are increasingly compromised by pre-existing viral resistance in circulating strains,” Plemper said. “Recently approved Xofluza also induced viral resistance in 10 percent of patients in clinical trials, which is very concerning.”
With this award, Plemper will build on a successful long-term antiviral partnership to advance a novel class of orally efficacious ribonucleoside analogs towards an investigational new drug study.
“Because of the clinical burden of seasonal influenza viruses, we believe that effective next-generation therapeutics to treat influenza must be orally available, have the ability to combat a broad spectrum of influenza viruses, including both influenza A and B viruses, and should be protected by a high barrier against the emergence of viral resistance,” he said.
Plemper has established an automated drug screening facility at Georgia State, and pilot studies with this new compound in mice and ferrets have confirmed potent antiviral efficacy against human and zoonotic influenza viruses, including highly pathogenic avian viruses. The clinical drug candidate targets the viral RNA polymerase complex, preventing it from accurately replicating the viral genome.
In this project, dosing requirements of the compound for effective antiviral therapy directed against seasonal and highly-pathogenic influenza viruses will be established in ferrets and human respiratory epithelial cell organ cultures to inform dosing targets for clinical trials and human therapy.
For more information about the grant, visit https://projectreporter.nih.gov/project_info_description.cfm?aid=9625434&icde=43544966&ddparam=&ddvalue=&ddsub=&cr=2&csb=default&cs=ASC&pball=.