These are 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. On 28 April we announced our participation in a new UK national multi-centre randomised Phase 2 clinical trial initiative called ACCORD (ACcelerating COVID-19 Research & Development platform). BerGenBio’s bemcentinib was selected as the first candidate to be tested for its efficacy and safety in patients hospitalised with COVID-19.
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.
We are aware of the privilege and importance of having our drug selected for this national study and will be working closely with the Government Scientific Office, the National Institute for Health Research and designated CRO IQVIA to produce timely and high-quality results. If positive results are seen, bemcentinib will advance rapidly to Phase 3 testing and prepare for commercialisation to treat COVID-19 patients.
I’m particularly 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, to enable this important trial to get started so rapidly.
As for any company in the healthcare industry, we are seeking to improve the lives and treatment options for patients across the globe. This study 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.
We look forward to keeping you all updated as we progress with the study, with the hope that bemcentinib can contribute to the global efforts to find an effective treatment for COVID-19.
Chief Executive Officer of BerGenBio ASA