PharmAust (ASX: PAA) will evaluate the impact of its monepantel (MPL) drug on the human t-lymphotropic virus-1 (HTLV-1) under a new research agreement with Melbourne’s Walter and Eliza Hall Institute.
According to PharmAust, between 10 and 20 million people around the world are infected with HTLV-1, which is a cancer inducing virus that targets the immune system similar to HIV which is the causative agent for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).
HTLV-1 can cause a type of cancer called adult T-cell leukaemia/lymphoma (ATL) and is transmitted through infected bodily fluids including blood and breast milk.
The virus has a high incidence in Japan with several central Australian indigenous populations also disproportionately affected with infections rates over 60%.
Infection is associated with pulmonary disease, inflammatory disorders and, in some cases, a rapidly progressing leukaemia/lymphoma.
About 10% of patients will suffer from serious morbidities and eventual mortality.
Research with Walter and Eliza Hall Institute
This new research partnership with the institute follows on PharmAust’s COVID-19 program which is testing the antiviral activity of MPL in cells infected with SARS-CoV2.
Prof Marc Pellegrini is leading the in vitro research of the impact of MPL on HTLV-1 cell lines in culture.
Depending on the outcome of this work, research will progress to in vivo preclinical models.
PharmAust selected HTLV-1 to study in this latest research due to the readily available nature of preclinical virus infection models, which could potentially provide PharmAust with extra data to support human trials.
“While PharmAust continues MPL manufacture and tablet production for clinical trials, this work provides an excellent opportunity to build our MPL antiviral knowledge base,” PharmAust chief scientific officer Dr Richard Mollard explained.
“While our COVID-19 work is ongoing, having a more extensive preclinical data package describing MPL’s antiviral activity in more general terms would strengthen PharmAust’s position going into any antiviral clinical trial, including for COVID-19,” Dr Mollard added.
Preliminary data from the HTLV-1 research is expected in December this year.