|New Company Developing Promising
New Hepatitis Drug
IgX Corporation, the University of Oxford and Thomas Jefferson University have established a consortium to develop new imino sugar protein folding inhibitors to treat viral hepatitis. A new company, IgX Oxford Hepatitis Corp., has been created to coordinate development and commercialization of the drugs. It is a spin off from a collaborative research effort between scientists at Jefferson Medical College and at the University of Oxford. The consortium is majority-owned, managed and funded by IgX Corp. of Summit, NJ.
The technology stems from research at Jefferson Medical College and at the University of Oxford. Scientists there are hoping to devise a new way to fight the hepatitis B virus (HBV). Timothy Block, PhD, Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology and Medicine at Jefferson, Raymond Dwek, FRS, Director of the Glycobiology Institute at the University of Oxford, and their co-workers have found that a drug, N-nonyl-DNJ, interferes with a specific step in the life cycle of the woodchuck hepatitis virus. The virus cant reproduce, shutting down its ability to infect a cell. Woodchucks are the best known model for HBV infection in people.
By blocking the creation of a virus envelope, the virus DNA is locked within the infected cell. As a result, levels of the virus in the animals bloodstream drop dramatically. The researchers say that the work may provide leads to improved methods of fighting HBV and hepatitis C (HCV) infections in chronically infected humans. HBV and HCV chronically infect more than 350 million people, worldwide, with as many as 20 million in developed nations. If left untreated, a large number will die from liver disease. Current treatment options are limited.
Dr. Block, who is a member of Jeffersons Kimmel Cancer Center and Director of the Jefferson Center for Biomedical Research and Agricultural Medicine, Dr. Dwek of Oxford, Nobel laureate and HBV discoverer Baruch Blumberg of Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, and their colleagues reported their research results in May 1998 in the journal Nature Medicine.
With extensive animal studies already completed and others currently under way, the company intends to file in late 1999 for IND approval with the federal Food and Drug Administration for N-nonyl-DNJ as an HBV treatment.
Creating an entity that will serve to develop promising therapies for the treatment of viral hepatitis is critical, says Dr. Block. HCV infections in particular represent a largely unmet medical need.
Donald Picker, PhD, President and CEO of IgX Oxford Hepatitis Corp., says, We look forward to the development of this exciting new drug, along with other future compounds exhibiting novel mechanisms of action in a variety of therapeutic areas.
IgX Corp. is a privately held biotechnology company involved in antibody-based treatment of gastrointestinal infections and hepatitis.