APEIRON Biologics AG, a privately held biotechnology company founded by LSI Director Dr. Josef Penninger has announced the start of a company-sponsored Phase 1 trial for inhalation of APN01.
The double-blind, placebo-controlled, dose-escalation study plans to enroll about 40 healthy volunteers in Austria to assess the safety, tolerability, effects and performance of the drug, developed by Penninger in response to the first SARS outbreak in 2003.
Nebulized APN01 is a recombinant human angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 developed to treat COVID-19 patients by neutralizing SARS-CoV-2 in the lungs and mitigating lung damage caused by the infection. Primary study objective is the evaluation of safety and tolerability of single ascending doses (SADs) and multiple ascending doses (MADs) of inhaled APN01 when administered via a jet nebulizer in healthy subjects. Secondary objectives include the maximum tolerated dose and the effect of APN01 on key pharmacodynamic biomarkers of the renin-aldosterone-angiotensin system (RAAS).
Delivering APN01 via inhalation, rather than intravenously is being evaluated for its potential as a self-administered treatment for patients at earlier stages of COVID-19 infection.
Univ. Prof. Dr. Markus Zeitlinger, Department of Clinical Pharmacology at the Medical University of Vienna and principal investigator of the trial, said “preliminary data from ongoing studies with inhalation of ACE2 based therapeutics show high efficacy in SARS-CoV-2 preclinical models. Delivery of the drug candidate directly to the respiratory tract should block viral entry into the lung cells and control inflammation. Importantly, APN01 may also be suitable against infections with variants of SARS-CoV-2 as already shown preclinically.”
- Inhalation of APN01 to directly target SARS-CoV-2 virus in respiratory tract, the lung and tissue itself
- Primary objective is to evaluate safety and tolerability of inhaled APN01
- Phase 1 trial to enroll about 40 healthy volunteers
- Additional US Phase 2 trial with intravenous administration of APN01
“We desperately need an effective treatment for COVID-19 and an inhaled application is an important strategic milestone for APEIRON. With the data from our concluded Phase 2 trial with APN01, recently supported by highly encouraging efficacy results in preclinical models, we are confident that inhalation with APN01 can deliver substantial benefits for patients suffering from COVID-19 infections,” added APEIRON CEO Peter Llewellyn-Davies.
“This is the third clinical trial dedicated to the multiarmed initiative of developing APN01 into vital therapy options in COVID-19,” Lewellyn-Davies continued. “We look forward to the results of the ongoing trials which could pave the way for the future treatment of COVID-19 with APN01.”
APEIRON’s previously completed Phase 2 trial with intravenously administered APN01 demonstrated significant improvement in certain parameters of the Renin Angiotensin Aldosterone System (RAAS) with APN01 treatment compared to placebo. Data also suggested that APN01 will confer greatest therapeutic benefit to patients with lower WHO-CPS (World Health Organization Clinical Progression Scale) scores.
In parallel, APN01 is to be administered intravenously in a US Phase 2 trial conducted by the Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC), Nashville, USA, and supported and funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The four-arm, randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial is enrolling approximately 1,600 COVID-19 patients at more than 50 sites in the United States.
About APN01 (alunacedase alfa)
APN01 is a soluble recombinant human Angiotensin Converting Enzyme 2 (rhACE2) which mimics ACE2, a receptor identified as the critical cellular entry receptor for the SARS-CoV2 virus and therefore plays a crucial role in combating COVID-19. The virus’ spike uses the ACE2 protein on the cell membrane to enter the cells. APN01 as a soluble form of ACE2, potentially prevents binding of the virus spike protein to the cell surface receptor and thereby preventing infection of cells.
Several studies have shown human ACE2 is a key enzyme regulator of the Renin Angiotensin Aldosterone System (RAAS), a peptide system involved in blood pressure, lung disorders, diabetic kidney disease, inflammation, or cardiovascular diseases. ACE2 dials down the RAAS and thereby reduces blood pressure, diminishes inflammation, and protects multiple organs such as the heart, kidney, liver, lung or vasculature from damage. Thus, in addition to blocking the access of SARS-CoV-2 to its cell membrane-bound entry gate, the enzyme function of APN01, engineered into the same drug, potentially leads to reduction of organ injuries in COVID-19.
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