Whether patients are immunocompromised or just don’t like needles, a young Australian biotech says she has an alternative to Covid-19 vaccines that doesn’t involve a hit to the arm – and on Tuesday she fired a new one round of fundraising to take him to the clinic.
ENA Respiratory, which emerged from ENA Therapeutics last year, raised nearly $ 24.7 million (AU $ 30 million) to advance its nasal spray against respiratory viral infections, the company said on Tuesday.
The milestone-triggered funding was led by Australian investors Brandon Capital Partners and Minderoo Foundation, with input from Uniseed.
ENA’s lead candidate, INNA-051, is a small molecule that targets TLR2 / 6 receptors on airway epithelial cells to stimulate the body’s natural immune response to viruses. He should enter a clinic “in the coming weeks”, according to the ENA.
“Besides vaccines, complementary approaches are needed to help protect the most vulnerable people and also provide protection against emerging variants,” co-founder and CEO Christophe Demaison said in a statement.
He considers the spray to be particularly useful for the elderly or immunocompromised, and cannot respond sufficiently to currently available vaccines. It would be self-administered once or twice a week, either before or shortly after exposure. And because it is not specific to a virus, the ENA believes that INNA-051 could prevent other illnesses like the flu and colds, as well as emerging variants of Covid-19.
In December, the ENA published results in EBioMedicine showing that a group of ferrets treated with INNA-051 in a challenge study saw viral replication reduced by up to 96%.
“If humans react the same way, the benefits of the treatment are twofold,” Demaison said at the time. “People exposed to the virus would most likely get rid of it quickly, with treatment ensuring that the disease does not progress beyond mild symptoms. This is particularly relevant for vulnerable members of the community. In addition, the speed of this response means that those infected are unlikely to transmit it, which means a rapid stop in community transmission. “
In addition to the funding, the ENA appeals to Ruth Tal-Singer, GlaxoSmithKline veterinarian, on its board of directors. While currently President and CSO of the nonprofit COPD Foundation, Tal-Singer has previously held various leadership positions within the pharmaceutical industry, including Vice President of Medical Innovation and Vice -President of respiratory R&D.
Nasal sprays have gained increasing interest as an alternative for those who cannot benefit from vaccines over the past year. In November, gene therapy pioneer James Wilson and his colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania signed a pact with Regeneron to see if they could combine biotechnology’s Covid-19 antibody cocktail with a platform for administration of AAV by nasal spray. And in March, GV led a $ 47 million fundraiser to fund Leyden Labs’ mission to develop a nasal spray that could protect people from a range of viruses for a few days.