Metriopharm’s ‘iMPact’ project was awarded a €7.9 million grant from the COVID-19 work programme from Horizon Europe in November of 2021, to clinically validate MP1032, an early intervention treatment against mild-to-moderate COVID-19. In this project, MetrioPharm has joined forces with three consortium partners, ImmunoLogik, Catalyze, and PHOX Consulting e.U. Our Partner Catalyze spoke with Dr. Wolfgang Brysch, Chief Scientific Officer and Chief Medical Officer of Metriopharm, to hear more about their mission, the iMPact project. Here is the article:
Headquarted in Zurich, Metriopharm is a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company on a mission to create new therapies for acute and chronic inflammatory diseases. The principle focus at Metriopharm is to develop new anti-inflammatories. In particular, they have conducted trials in autoimmune diseases with their lead drug MP1032, a novel, orally available immune-modulator, which as Dr. Brysch explains, was found to also have strong anti-viral efficacy.
“While our focus remains in treating chronic inflammatory diseases, in early 2020 we started thinking that maybe our drug, which is a very safe anti-inflammatory drug, could be of value in treating COVID-19, an acute inflammatory disease. We felt compelled to try this.”
“Through a collaboration with the Virology lab at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, we tested our lead drug MP1032 against SARS-CoV-2 in preclinical viral infection models and we found that this molecule also has an anti-viral effect.”
The focus of iMPact: The molecule MP1032
MP1032 works by targeting the cellular redox balance, detecting excess levels of reactive oxygen species and scavenging them. In this way, MP1032 functions as a remedy for oxidative stress in infectious cells, reversing the conditions that promote COVID-19 disease progression. With its combined anti-SARS-CoV-2 and anti-cytokine activity, MP1032 can target both the viral replication and immune over-activation of COVID-19.
Dr. Brysch says, “It seems to be that the RNA viruses are shifting the cellular redox balance a bit to sort of reprogram the cell to produce virus particles, rather than doing its own job. Our drug can re-shift this balance back to the normal physiological state.”
“Where we really see the potential is that MP1032 is very virus-type agnostic, so it should work with any kind of future COVID-19 mutation or new virus that comes up. So, potentially COVID is just the proof of concept that MP1032 as a general compound, could be used in future pandemics.”
Creating iMPact and collaborating with consortium partners
With the April 2021 opening of the Horizon Europe COVID-19 call entitled, ‘Vaccines & therapeutic clinical trials to boost COVID-19 prevention and treatment’, and a subsequent deadline in May, Metriopharm had a small window to capitalize on the funding opportunity.
Dr. Brysch describes finding Catalyze, “We have high standards for our service partners and from previous experiences we were a little weary. However, from our first interaction with Catalyze, it was clear that they are doing a very professional job. I must say, our expectations were overfulfilled through the work. I think it was a great collaboration.”
Despite the limited time-window, Metriopharm and her consortium partners were able to prepare a winning proposal, due to the very focused and constructive approach all consortium partners were taking under time constraints.
iMPact is underway and in-clinic
Metriopharm’s iMPact project commenced in August 2021 with the aim to clinically validate their lead compound MP1032 in symptomatic, hospitalized COVID-19 patients. Phase II clinical trials are currently underway and are investigating MP1032’s ability to stop COVID-19 disease progression, reduce hospitalization times and potentially even prevent cases of ‘Long Covid’.
As Dr. Brysch mentions, the latest wave of COVID-19 infections has created difficulties, but they are moving ahead:
“In the current environment, there are many challenges in navigating a trial, because the clinical sites are now under a huge amount of pressure work-wise. The major milestone and basically the focal point of everything is, of course, the top line data of the clinical trial, which we expect next year. This will inform us of when and how to move forward.”
Bringing MP1032 to market could significantly reduce the disease burden of COVID-19 through reducing the strain on hospitals from COVID-19 patients, freeing up capacity to provide higher quality of care to other non-COVID patients.
Dr. Brysch explains, “The rationale is basically, if we can mitigate the disease severity enough, then COVID is not a problem anymore. If people are no longer dying from it and have only mild symptoms, then this pandemic is manageable for society.”
Under the given circumstances the recruitment numbers for this international, clinical trial have been promising, so far.
This article was written and published by iMPact project partner Catalyze Group. The original article can be found here.