Monday, May 7, 2007
In Focus: Alnylam Establishes RSV Experimental Infection Model
Alnylam and their collaborators from the University of Tennessee and Meridian Life Science derived a non-pathogenic RSV strain in high enough amounts so that it could be used to experimentally infect healthy adult volunteers. They showed that infection could be achieved in 72% of the subjects with incubation times and duration of infection that should allow the investigators to test the antiviral activity of ALN-RSV01. Drop-out rates were excellent with 35 of the 36 volunteers completing the study and no major adverse event reported. The company consequently announced that it would begin phase II experimental challenge studies this quarter.
The experimental infection studies are part of a wider well designed and innovative development program that places emphasis on feasibility in the early, therefore less expensive stages. Importantly, today’s results show that RSV infection can be quantified reliably across a number of platforms. This offers the prospect of obtaining statistically significant efficacy data already by the end of this year. The results from the planned phase II studies will be watched closely by the whole field as they would represent first human proof-of-concept of an RNAi Therapeutic. For those interested in investing in this area, expect such data to be a major value driver for Alnylam’s share price and beyond.
Ultimately, however, ALN-RSV01 will have to show safety and efficacy in the lower respiratory tracts of RSV infected infants. While the soon to be started experimental challenge studies will test an siRNA formulation nasal spray in the nose/upper respiratory tract, aerosolised siRNAs will have to be used later. In addition to mastering delivery, one problem particularly relevant in the treatment of RNA viral infections is the emergence of escape mutants. It is of note therefore, that although ALN-RSV01 was highly effective in reducing viral titers in tissue culture, knockdown efficiency was not compromised following repeat administration of the siRNA and no mutation around the siRNA target site was found.
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