Danish biotech firm starts human trials for new Covid drug

The Danish biotech company Union Therapeutics has been given the go-ahead to begin clinical trials on humans for its coronavirus medicine which early studies show is more than 40 times more effective than Remdesivir.

Danish biotech firm starts human trials for new Covid drug
Niclosamide is one of hundreds of promising new drugs. Sorrento Therapeutics in San Diego, California, is working on an antibody drug. Reuters/Scanpix/Bing Guan
Dr Rasmus Toft-Kehler, chief executive and co-founder of the company, credited the “amazing period” that saw the medicine rushed through preliminary trials. 
“The team, including all stakeholders, partners… and not least regulatory authorities, have acted with passion and in concert to advance UNI911 at an incredible pace,” he said in a press statement.
“We are honoured to be part of this venture and excited to be at the cusp of initiating clinical studies with the ultimate goal of making a differentiated product available for patients in need”.
The drug UNI911, or niclosamide, will be tested at the Zelo Phase I Unit at Bispebjerg and Frederiksberg Hopsital and at the Center for Physical Activity Research at Rigshospitalet. 
“It is a drug that can kill the virus and prevent it from dividing inside the body,” Morten Sommer, a professor at DTU Biosustain and the co-founder of Union, told TV2
“Previously, it has been used to treat bowel diseases such as tapeworms, but we have found out how the drug can come out and work elsewhere in the body.” 
In studies from South Korea, niclosamide has proven 40 times more potent than the drug Remdesivir, which has otherwise been considered the most effective drug for treating Covid-19.
Sommer expects the development of the drug to move into the second phase this autumn. 
“It is still early in the process, but we think the characteristic we have seen of the drug seem really promising, and if the results continue to come in, we hope that it has great opportunity to contribute to the treatment of both Covid-19 and also other similar diseases.” 

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Danish firm advances its Ebola vaccine

The Danish biomedical company Bavarian Nordic has entered into an agreement with Belgian firm Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies to further develop Bavarian’s Ebola vaccine.

Danish firm advances its Ebola vaccine
When combined with Janssen’s AdVac, Bavarian Nordic's MVA-BN Filovirus has demonstrated complete protection against Ebola. Photo: Betina Garcia/Scanpix
Bavarian Nordic announced in a press release that it has signed a global licence and supply agreement for its Ebola vaccine candidate, MVA-BN Filovirus, with Crucell Holland BV, a subsidiary of Janssen. 
According to the company, when combined with Janssen’s AdVac, MVA-BN Filovirus has demonstrated complete protection against Ebola in pre-clinical studies. Janssen will now carry out further clinic studies and is working with authorities to make the vaccines available in west Africa.
“We have been developing potential vaccines against Ebola for several years. The gravity of the situation has called for immediate action from authorities and drug developers to fast-track the development of urgently needed medical countermeasures, and we are happy to join this effort together with Janssen, who has demonstrated their leadership by committing to accelerating this vaccine and actively supporting the areas in west Africa affected by the outbreak,” Bavarian Nordic CEO Paul Chaplin said in a statement. 
Under the new agreement, Bavarian Nordic will grant Janssen an exclusive licence for MVA-BN Filovirus. Bavarian Nordic will receive an upfront payment of $25 million (147 million kroner) and can earn up to an additional $20 million (117 million kroner) by hitting additional regulatory milestones and through royalties for commercial sales outside Africa.
Bavarian announced that as a result of the deal, it will raise its expectations for the year-end cash preparedness from approximately 600 million kroner ($102.4 million) to one billion kroner ($170.6 million).
An outbreak of Ebola has killed more than 4,500 people, primarily in the three west African countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.