Alderley Park, Cheshire, U.K – Infex Therapeutics, a leading anti-infectives specialist, is delighted to announce a successful grant award of £850,000 to support its 18 month, £1m COV-X project, titled: “Optimisation of a novel series of SARS-CoV-2 inhibitors”. The grant was successfully awarded upon application to the Innovate UK Biomedical Catalyst (“BMC”).

The objective for the project is to develop existing hits through lead optimisation to generate advanced drug-like leads, which display in vivo proof of concept in efficacy models and have high potential for preclinical candidate nomination and onwards development towards a safe and effective treatment. This will be achieved by applying a clearly-identified lead-optimisation programme including medicinal chemistry, enzymology, virology, safety profiling and efficacy assessment. An innovative airway organoid model using human lung cells will be developed and utilised to aid the translation of preclinical data into clinical trials and will provide broader utility across the industry.

Infex Therapeutics, in partnership with the University of Liverpool and the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, and supported by the Medicines Discovery Catapult, is developing a novel series of drugs as part of its COV-X programme to treat coronavirus infections, including SARS-CoV-2, the cause of the global COVID-19 pandemic. These new drugs work by targeting a key protease essential for viral replication. These inhibitors will help meet a desperate clinical need for novel anti-viral agents which are effective in treating breakthrough cases, unvaccinated and high-risk patients such as those undergoing anti-cancer treatments, leading to reduced hospitalisation and pressure on healthcare systems, and lower death rates. The compounds have potential to treat future SARS-CoV-2 variants and may have utility for use in predicted future pandemics due to the highly conserved nature of the target across different coronaviruses.

The BMC was established in 2012, and identified a market failure in terms of access to funding for early-stage UK life sciences companies. The total amount available during first 2022 funding round is up to £15m.

The COVID-19 pandemic is the most serious global health crisis in recent history with over 140,000 deaths in the UK and over 5 million deaths worldwide. Despite extensive vaccination programs, the virus remains transmissible with hospitalisation and mortality remaining high, both in the UK and globally.

Dr Pete Jackson, Executive Director of Infex Therapeutics, said: “I am pleased that the grant application to the Biomedical Catalyst has been successful. The award will provide funding to advance a key project as part of our COV-X programme, which is currently in its preclinical phase.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is indeed still ongoing, with resurgent cases caused by the BA.5 variant underlining the critical need for new novel treatments. COV-X research is vital to finding solutions to this current pandemic, and it may also provide an effective treatment against future coronavirus outbreaks, such as SARS, MERS and other COVID variants.”