Updated 29 July 2020
These remain unprecedented and challenging times. My priority has been the safety and health of our employees and their families, and to continue the Company’s clinical trials as far as is feasibly possible.
At the same time, we have been working hard to see how we might help in the fight against COVID-19 more directly. In April 2020, BerGenBio’s bemcentinib was selected as the first candidate to be tested for its efficacy and safety in hospitalised patients with COVID-19 in the UK, however, due to the effective public health measures taken in the UK, the incidence of COVID-19 patients has substantially reduced, and funding and subsequent recruitment into the ACCORD (ACcelerating COVID-19 Research & Development platform) study was ceased.
Whilst our clinical focus for bemcentinib, a highly selective and potent inhibitor of AXL kinase, has been on the treatment of cancer, we have been aware of bemcentinib’s anti-viral potential for some time, as demonstrated in preclinical models against viruses such as Ebola and Zika, with recent data expanding this to SARS-CoV-2. Bemcentinib selectively inhibits AXL kinase activity, blocking viral entry and enhancing the anti-viral type I interferon response, a key cellular defence mechanism against viral infection.
Bemcentinib continues to hold great promise in the treatment of COVID-19, and in the interest of patients globally, we are adapting quickly to open further studies of bemcentinib. We are currently in late stage set-up phase and regulatory submissions to conduct a similar study to ACCORD in a country of high COVID-19 incidence and expect to update the market and shareholders in the near future.
I remain grateful and impressed by the vital pre-clinical research carried out by Professor Wendy Maury and her team at the University of Iowa, which discovered that the essential role of AXL is hi-jacked by viruses such as EBOLA and SARS-CoV-2 to enhance their infection rate and substantially improve their survival in host cells, and furthermore demonstrated the potential of bemcentinib as a treatment for viruses such as COVID-19. I also thank, and recognise the incredible effort made by, the BerGenBio team, alongside Tom Wilkinson’s team at the University of Southampton and IQVIA on the progress made with bemcentinib thus far.
As for any company in the healthcare industry, we are seeking to improve the lives and treatment options for patients across the globe. Future studies will be important not only for COVID-19 patients but should also serve to further validate bemcentinib as a promising treatment candidate for other aggressive diseases.
Chief Executive Officer of BerGenBio ASA