Poolbeg licences candidate for broad-spectrum respiratory infections

Influenza Virus H1N1

Poolbeg Pharma has licenced a candidate for nasal immunotherapy, developed by the University of Warwick, targeting respiratory infections, such as influenza and coronavirus.

The RNA-based immunotherapy drug was developed at the University of Warwick and drew on 20 years of research, led by prominent virologists Professor Andrew Easton and Professor Nigel Dimmock. It will be developed by London-based Poolbeg as POLB 002.

The therapy works by triggering nasal cells into an antiviral state to protect from the infecting virus. As it is easy to use – sprayed up the nostrils – it has the potential to be a game-changing prophylactic for people at increased risk of illness – such as older people, those with COPD, and asthmatics.

As well as triggering nasal cells into an antiviral state, POLB 002 prevents cells from making more of the virus by directly preventing their replication. The combination of these actions can slash viral load and therefore improve disease symptoms.

With COVID-19 dominating the headlines – and healthcare – for just over two years, the benefits of such a therapy would be extraordinary. Respiratory virus infections are considered a top-five global killer, according to Poolbeg, resulting in more than three million annual deaths worldwide.

As current therapies, vaccinations and antivirals mostly act on a specific pathogen, POLB 002 has the potential to provide individuals with a speedy therapy that could also be used prior to infection.

The current unmet need for therapies for respiratory viral infections means 85% of illnesses caused by non-influenza viruses cannot be adequately treated and the emergence of resistance is also a major concern, states Poolbeg.

Jeremy Skillington, CEO of Poolbeg Pharma, said: “This dual-action immunotherapy developed by the team at the University of Warwick is a really exciting technology in the field of respiratory virus disease treatments. The data shows it to rapidly reduce viral load and also prevent the likelihood of virus resistance.

“It will be an excellent addition to our growing pipeline of assets and we plan to move rapidly towards human proof-of-concept studies using our capital light clinical model. We look forward to updating the market as POLB 002 progresses through the clinic with the ultimate aim of partnering it with Big Pharma.”

Poolbeg’s initial assets are from Open Orphan plc, an industry leading infectious disease and human challenge trials business.