Bloomberg News

NexBio Anti-Flu Drug Reduces Virus in Trial to Seek New Therapy

September 17, 2011

Sept. 17 (Bloomberg) -- An experimental flu medicine from NexBio Inc. reduced the virus in patients’ blood by the second day of treatment, suggesting the drug may be an alternative to existing medications the virus has learned to evade.

Patients given the therapy, dubbed DAS181, for three days also took less acetaminophen to reduce fever and symptoms than those given a placebo, according to study results presented at the Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy in Chicago today. The 177-patient clinical trial is from the second of three phases of tests typically required for U.S. approval.

NexBio’s DAS181 is an inhaled powder that’s absorbed through the airways, where it prevents viruses from getting inside the cells where they reproduce. The drug’s mechanism differs from that of existing treatments including Roche Holding AG’s Tamiflu and GlaxoSmithKline Plc.’s Relenza, which means the drug may work against flu strains that resist current therapies, said Ron Moss, vice president of clinical development for San Diego-based NexBio, a closely held drug developer.

“In the back of everyone’s mind is the concern about the ongoing evolution of the virus, and the potential there could be a new pandemic strain that’s resistant to the current treatments,” said Moss, in a telephone interview. “Everyone’s biggest fear is 1918.”

The 1918 form of influenza left 50 million people dead, killing a disproportionate number of otherwise healthy people from the ages of 20 to 40, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Fighting Resistance

Roche’s Tamiflu had sales of $840 million in 2010. The NexBio drug targets the patient’s cells, covering the place where the virus gets in, which may make it more difficult for the virus to develop resistance, Moss said. Tamiflu and Relenza target an aspect of the virus to keep it from spreading to other cells.

NexBio was raided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in August, according to an Aug. 4 report from the San Diego Union- Tribune website. Moss declined to comment on the case.

“As far as I know, the clinical development of this drug is continuing,” Moss said. Another study of similar size is planned, he said.

--Editors: Angela Zimm, Andrew Pollack

To contact the reporter on this story: Elizabeth Lopatto in New York at elopatto@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Reg Gale at rgale5@bloomberg.net.


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