The collaboration agreement today will expand PharmAust’s work on viruses and broaden the scope potential for Monepantel’s antiviral activity.

Clinical stage biotechnology company, PharmAust (ASX:PAA), has just executed a Research Services Agreement with Melbourne-based Walter and Eliza Hall Institute (WEHI), to investigate the effects of PharmAust’s lead drug Monepantel (MPL)  on human T-lymphotrophic virus-1 (HTLV-1).

HTLV-1 is an oncogenic (cancer inducing) virus that targets the immune system.

The study of HTLV-1 is of particular significance due to the readily available nature of highly relevant in vitro and in vivo preclinical virus infection models, potentially providing PharmAust with further data to support future human trials.


High infection rates of HTLV-1

Similar to the HIV virus, which is the cause of AIDS, HTLV-1 attacks the immune system and can cause a type of cancer called adult T-cell leukaemia/lymphoma (ATL).

The HTLV-1 virus is primarily transmitted through infected bodily fluids, including blood and breast milk.

According to data, approximately 10-20 million people worldwide are infected with HTLV-1, with a particularly high recorded incidence in Japan.

Several indigenous populations in central Australia have infection rates of over 60%.

Infection is associated with pulmonary disease, inflammatory disorders and, in some cases, a rapidly progressive leukaemia/lymphoma.

Around 10% of patients suffer serious morbidities and death as a result of HTLV-1 infection.


The WEHI collaboration

The collaboration with WEHI follows upon PharmAust’s other antiviral activities, including its extensive  COVID-19 program.

The aim of the study is to broaden the scope of targets for MPL’s potential antiviral activity.

“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,” commented  PharmAust’s chief scientific officer Dr Richard Mollard.

Like its COVID-19 work, the HTLV-1 work will be conducted at WEHI by a group led by Professor Marc Pellegrini, with work commencing upon cell lines in culture.

Dr Mollard also said this work will provide an excellent opportunity to build on MPL’s antiviral knowledge base,  while it continues MPL manufacture and tablet production for clinical trials.

Depending on the outcomes of this study, PharmAust aims to progress to in vivo preclinical models.

The company says that fees payable under the agreement is not material, and preliminary data are anticipated in December this year.

WEHI meanwhile is one of Australia’s leading biomedical research organisations, with a national and international reputation for performing highly influential basic and translational research.


Rapid progress on Monepantel

PharmAust’s lead drug is progressing rapidly across several fronts.

The company will be conducting a number of clinical trials on  MPL  later this year, as it works to cure cancer in both dogs and humans, as well as viral and neurological diseases.

The studies include a Phase II human cancer trial to start in  Q1 2022, and a Phase I/II human trial in motor neurone disease to begin in the fourth quarter CY 2021 after a $900k grant from charity FightMND.

In addition, PharmAust will also commence a human COVID-19 Phase I/II trial in Q1 2022, as well as a Phase III clinical trials on pet dogs with B-cell lymphoma, following successful Phase IIa and Phase IIb studies.

Apart from being listed on the ASX, PharmAust is also listed on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange (code: ECQ).

This article was developed in collaboration with PharmAust, a Stockhead advertiser at the time of publishing.

This article does not constitute financial product advice. You should consider obtaining independent advice before making any financial decisions.