KU Leuven’s Rega Institute for Medical Research and the Centre for Drug Design and Discovery (CD3) announced that they recently entered into a collaboration and license agreement with Gilead Sciences, Inc. to develop candidate antiviral compounds for the treatment of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection. RSV is the single most common cause of respiratory hospitalization in children under the age of five, and a significant cause of mortality in this population. This respiratory virus can also cause serious disease and lead to mortality in immunocompromised and elderly people, as well as patients with chronic airway disease.
The collaboration will build on an existing drug discovery program of the Rega Institute and CD3, which was supported by the Wellcome Trust. This joint effort resulted in the identification of a new class of inhibitors of RSV replication with a novel mechanism of antiviral action. Under the agreement, Gilead Sciences receives exclusive global rights to develop the RSV antivirals while KU Leuven will be eligible to receive milestone payments and royalties on net sales of products developed under the agreement.
Professor Neyts said: “Since RSV is the leading cause of bronchiolitis in infants and can also cause severe disease in elderly and immunocompromised people, potent and safe drugs to treat infections with this virus are urgently awaited. It is a pleasure to now work together with Gilead Sciences, a company with a long and successful track-record in bringing antiviral drugs to the market, to further develop these novel RSV inhibitors for potential clinical testing. We are also very thankful to the Wellcome Trust for awarding us the funding that made the discovery of this class of antiviral compounds possible.”
Dr. Patrick Chaltin, Managing Director of CD3 added: “This collaboration between the Rega Institute and CD3 again demonstrates that our joint capabilities can lead to very innovative and highly needed antivirals which can become the cornerstones of our defense against viral infections. We are very excited to continue the development of these RSV antivirals together with Gilead and to be at the origin of this potential treatment option for patients, young and old, suffering from RSV infections.”
KU Leuven and CD3 have ambitious plans for the fight against other viruses as well. Patrick Chaltin: "In the future, we want to develop a range of antiviral compounds against those virus families with epidemic and pandemic potential. Johan Neyts added: “This collaboration aligns well with our goal of developing a virology toolbox to support the discovery and development of preventive and therapeutic approaches against viruses for which no treatment is available but urgently needed.”