Sussex Drug Discovery Centre & ReViral reach clinical trial with ‘game changer’ lung virus treatment

A collaboration between scientists at one of the UK’s leading university drug discovery centres and the UK-based biotech company ReViral has led to the development of a drug aimed at treating people suffering from respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) – a common and potentially life-threatening lung condition affecting babies, the immune-compromised and the elderly.

The team at the University of Sussex’s Sussex Drug Discovery Centre worked together with ReViral in a lead optimisation programme to design and synthesise a new drug called ‘RV521’. This work was funded by a Wellcome Trust Seeding Drug Discovery Award, received by ReViral to support the project.

RV521 is the first drug originating from work performed at the Sussex Drug Discovery Centre to reach the clinical trial phase. ReViral has now begun phase one clinical trials with RV521 in 110 healthy volunteers before being tested further in patients. The primary aim of the clinical trial is to test the safety and tolerability in healthy volunteers before then evaluating the efficacy in patients.

There are 64 million people infected with RSV a year, resulting in an estimated 160,000 deaths per year worldwide. The virus causes cold-like symptoms which can develop into bronchitis or pneumonia. Most children have been infected with the virus by the age of two, and those at most risk include premature babies.

Scientists hope the new drug, if successful, will be used as a frontline treatment for people who often develop infections such as new-borns, the elderly and those with impaired immune systems.

Professor Simon Ward, Director of the Sussex Drug Discovery Centre, said: "This exciting collaboration between our drug discovery centre and ReViral is a clear demonstration of the role academic centres of drug discovery can play in the new landscape of drug discovery taking shape in the UK. 

“We are very pleased to see the first of our scientific collaborations mature into this stage of clinical testing, and we anticipate further success shortly.”

Dr Eddy Littler, CEO of ReViral, said: “The progression of RV521 to the clinic is a significant achievement for the company and marks a major step forward in developing a potential new therapy against respiratory syncytial virus.

“If ReViral’s Phase 1 clinical studies are successful, in showing levels of compound which are antiviral and with an acceptable safety profile, then the company intends to progress RV521 to clinical proof of concept in adult volunteers.”

The Sussex Drug Discovery Centre was set up under the University’s School of Life Sciences four years ago and works to discover new drugs for conditions with a high unmet medical need – such as infectious diseases, certain cancers and mental health disorders. The Centre is now home to over 60 scientists, roughly two-thirds of whom previously worked in the pharmaceutical industry.

Professor Laurence Pearl, Head of the School of Life Sciences, said: "The Sussex Drug Discovery Centre was established to bring a new academic approach to drug discovery in areas of high unmet medical need – this specifically includes infectious diseases, cancer, neurological and psychiatric disorders.

“We are delighted that the collaboration with ReViral has led to a novel compound entering clinical trials against a serious viral infection that causes severe and life-threatening infections in both the young and old.”

By: Lynsey Ford
Last updated: Tuesday, 21 March 2017