The National Research Council (NRC) in Canada has awarded ContraVir Pharmaceuticals more than $224,000 to cover expenses related to the preclinical development of CRV431, the company’s cyclophilin inhibitor for the treatment of hepatitis B virus (HBV).
The research award, equal to almost 300,000 Canadian dollars, was granted through the NRC’s Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP) and will be used to cover personnel expenses, including hiring additional laboratory staff.
“We are very grateful to NRC-IRAP for this generous contribution to our CRV431 program in hepatitis B,” Robert Foster, PharmD, PhD, chief scientific officer at ContraVir, said in a recent press release. “The fact that we can now expand the team dedicated to advancing this promising new molecule will have a positive impact on our ability to gain critical insights into its mechanism of action and explore new combination regimens capable of potentially eradicating HBV.”
CRV431 is a cyclophilin inhibitor derived from cyclosporine A, which effectively blocks a critical interaction between the HBV X protein (HBx) and host cyclophilin A proteins. ContraVir believes that the compound will be the first antiviral drug that selectively blocks the HBx pathway, which plays important roles in HBV infection.
The drug is expected to be effective against all HBV genotypes because it interrupts more than one point in the viral life cycle that is common in all subtypes of HBV.
“We’re proud of our team for continuing to leverage every available opportunity to advance development of our antiviral drug candidates,” said James Sapirstein, chief executive officer of ContraVir. “Determining the specific molecules and processes inhibited by CRV431, such as the exciting HBV X pathway, will help us further validate this compound and drive potential interest among commercial development partners working toward curative anti-HBV combination therapies.”
In vitro and in vivo studies demonstrated that CRV431 effectively inhibits HBV from entering liver cells. Within cells, the compound was found to reduce or eliminate the production/secretion of hepatitis B surface antigen (HbsAg) and envelope antigen (HbeAg), as well as HBV DNA and cccDNA (a special DNA structure that arises during the propagation of some viruses in the cell nucleus).
Data from preclinical studies showed that CRV431 reduced liver HBV DNA without significant toxicity. The compound showed a strong safety profile, with data demonstrating its ability to reduce liver damage — an important result considering the long-term liver damage caused by chronic HBV infection.