Shares in a small Sydney biotech company working on a cure for AIDS have surged 15 per cent after it said it was also evaluating its compounds for use against coronaviruses, including the new Wuhan strain that has killed hundreds.
Biotron on Thursday said it has 30 compounds with good activity against a range of coronaviruses, “including human coronaviruses that cause mild cold-like symptoms as well as the SARS coronavirus that was responsible for the outbreak of that virus in 2003.
“Those compounds can reduce the levels of coranvirus by 90 per cent to 100 per cent in infected cell cultures.
“Importantly, several compounds have broad-spectrum activity against multiple strains of coronaviruses.”
Biotron said it was testing a few select compounds against the Wuhan coranvirus, known as 20190-nCoV.
The work would be done under contract in specialist laboratories that have access to the new virus, which the company said has only recently been isolated and made available for study.
“Biotron’s priority will be testing its compounds that have shown broad-spectrum activity against different coronaviruses,” Biotron said in a statement to the ASX.
Until now Biotron has been focused on drug candidate BIT225 for treatment against HIV-1 and Hepatitis C.
A total of 55 healthy human volunteers and 94 subjects infected with either or both diseases have been dosed with the drug candidate in seven different Phase I and II clinical trials, the most recent of which was completed in 2018.
The company has said that the drug recipients showed “significant beneficial immunological changes” but so far Biotron is still preparing for the more advanced, large-scale clinical trials needed to better test the compound.
Biotron executives will be presenting clinical trial data at the pre-eminent international HIV/AIDS research conference in Boston in March, Biotron has said.
In the company’s 2019 report Biotron urged shareholder patience.
“Development of new drugs is a slow, measured process,” it said.
“The strict international regulatory and safety requirements mean that there are no shortcuts to the development of new drugs.”
BIT225 targets virus-encoded proteins known as viroporins, which are found in a range of viruses including coronaviruses and are essential to the virus life cycle.
Biotron’s shares spiked 40 per cent on January 22, going from six cents to 8.4 cents, as traders noticed old Biotron presentations suggesting that BIT225 was also effective against coranviruses.
At 1244 AEDT, Biotron shares were up 1.3 cents, or 15.9 per cent, to 9.5 cents.