The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the seriousness of not being prepared for pandemics. With the rise of antimicrobial resistance (AMR), it is thought another ‘pandemic’ is on the horizon – so how is the globe preparing for the impact of AMR?
AiCuris, which seeks to develop innovative treatment options for life-threatening, multidrug-resistant, hospital-treated pathogens, is taking on the problem with the launch of its new programme, PREP – Pandemic and Resistance Emergency Preparedness, a programme that has been designed to prevent future pandemics and tackle the threat of AMR across the globe.
AiCuris CEO, Holger Zimmermann, discusses the programme and the work of AiCuris, which aims to help find treatments for diseases with high medical need.
Learning from the COVID-19 pandemic
COVID-19 has highlighted the urgency and need to be pandemic ready. The PREP programme is part of AiCuris’ efforts to address the major threat to global healthcare systems – AMR.
“We were always driven by high medical need and COVID-19 has put the spotlight back on anti-infectives and the need for novel anti-infectives,” says Zimmermann.
“We initiated our PREP campaign as we wanted to raise awareness, but also to join expertise and resources. As an anti-infectives company, our starting point is the indication – then we chose the proper target, then chose the right technology to move things forward. The area where we are active is to take projects from research through to the clinical stage.
“It is difficult to call AMR a pandemic, however, it is an emergency case. If you need something and you do not have it then you run into big trouble – everyone understands this for COVID-19 now, and for AMR it is kind of the same. We need to really make use of this situation and get even more focussed on the need in this area. A lot of people died in the past because of bacterial infection and, you might have thought this was completely solved, but we need to be extremely careful that we are not going back into a world where we have a huge technology and innovation in operations, and where everything is possible, but you are running into problems if you have bacteria that you can’t treat – this is a huge problem.”
Zimmermann highlighted that there is also a huge problem in terms of making the area attractive, noting that there are many universities carrying out research, but that this research is not being picked up due to the lack of reward.
PREP – getting pandemic ready
To promote ideas that might lead to the next resistant breaking anti-infective, AiCuris has launched a programme – the AiCubator – to support scientists in the development of novel approaches by learning from experts about pre-clinical and clinical drug development, and which aims to provide long-term support for selected anti-infective research and early pre-clinical stage projects.
Currently, the focus of the AiCubator is on Gram-negative resistant-breaking antibiotics, targeted antiviral therapies for the treatment of herpes virus, adenovirus, hepatitis B cure, and respiratory viruses.
“Sometimes we receive proposals or are approached by companies with great ideas and when we have a closer look, it is nearly there – there is a lot of resources and brain power, but if it is not picked up it is a waste. So, we saw that there is a lot of expertise around in the early phases of research but sometimes it is too early to really engage into deal, and for this we created the AiCubator,” said Zimmermann.
“We invited biotech companies and university groups who have ideas, and we would like to engage with them to exchange with them and align on what is needed to make the research attractive for biotech and pharma.
“Bacteria will always generate resistance, but we could make it complicated for these organism if we come up with novel approaches. I think multiple novel approaches is what in the end you would need as a physician to choose from.”
Tackling the Hepatitis B virus
As part of the PREP programme, AiCuris plans to initiate a Phase 1b study with the treatment AIC649 for the prevention of the Hepatitis B virus.
“AIC649’s immune modulatory path is a proprietary inactivated parapoxvirus (iPPVO), which triggers a natural immune response,” said Zimmermann.
“We are in preparation of a proof-of-concept trial for patients in the early stages of the infection and, hopefully, we can show that they will not roll over into severe cases. So, there is a pilot trial, and we will look for immune parameters, as well as for disease progression and viral parameters.”
AiCuris highlights that AIC649 has the potential to become a first-line pandemic therapy.