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Algernon Pharmaceuticals aiming to repurpose drugs, with coronavirus trial go-ahead providing good example

Snapshot

The firm says repurposed compounds have a much lower risk of failing in human trials on safety issues

Algernon Pharmaceuticals Inc. -

Quick facts: Algernon Pharmaceuticals Inc.

Price: 0.235 CAD

CSE:AGN
Market: CSE
Market Cap: $21.16 m
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  • Drug repurposing model reduces risk and capital required
  • Working to develop Ifenprodil as new therapeutic for coronavirus
  • Experienced management team

What Algernon Pharmaceuticals does:

Algernon Pharmaceuticals Inc (CSE:AGN) (OTCQB:AGNPF) is a drug repurposing company. In simple terms this means it advances drugs that are safe and approved in one area but develops them for different indications/treatments.

So, the company may look again at a drug, which was tested for one disease, but may be better used for another. It focuses on treatments for billion-dollar global disease markets.

The firm says repurposed compounds have a much lower risk of failing in human trials on safety issues. It says over 90% of drugs fail before Phase II, while development costs have ballooned to nearly US$2.5 billion with an average timeline of 15 years.

The strategy goes as follows:

The company identifies safe drugs which were never approved in the US or Europe for new uses and confirms efficacy in animal studies. It then files new IP rights for the drug and conducts a clinical trial in the compound's country. If that is successful, the company then moves towards putting the drug into US clinical trials.

The firm says this is a capital-efficient business model and it is in the planning stages for four separate phase II clinical trials. These are for non–alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), chronic kidney disease (CKD), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF).  All of these key compounds were identified using its drug repurposing strategy.

The firm's lead program is looking at the drug NP-120, or Ifenprodil, for IPF and chronic cough - although the focus is currently on coronavirus (COVID-19) treatment. The IPF global market is expected to reach US$3.2 billion by 2025, while for chronic cough, the global market is put at US$1.8 billion by 2024.

How is it doing:

The recent focus for Algernon has been on using its strategy to help in the global fight against the coronavirus pandemic, by using the repurposed drug ifenprodil (NP-120) as a treatment.

On April 23 this year, the company said it had received the green light from the ministry of food and drug safety in South Korea, as well as ethics approval, for a Phase 2 clinical trial of the treatement and revealed that enrollment of first patients was due to begin on May 8.

The 40-patient, four-week trial, is designed to test the effect of the drug on patients with severe pneumonia.

Algernon believes Ifenprodil, which it discovered has the potential to combat flu, can reduce the infiltration of neutrophils and T-cells into the lungs where they can release glutamate and cytokines respectively.

These cytokines can result in the so-called cytokine storm that contributes to the loss of lung function and ultimately death as has been reported in coronavirus patients.

Meanwhile, on April 22 this year, Algernon revealed it had submitted a clinical trial application to Health Canada for a Phase 2b/3 multinational clinical trial for the same drug as a coronavirus therapy as well. It said the same study protocol was being prepared to submit to the US Food and Drug Administration and Australian regulatory authorities.

Inflection points:

  • South Korea coronavirus study results
  • Clinical trial updates for Canada, USA and Australia

What the boss says:

Algernon's chief executive Christopher Moreau spoke to Proactive in April and explained that for a small company working to help a global cause had been "exhilarating and exhausting" and was for a 'higher purpose' than simply running a firm.

"If our drug does reduce the severity and duration of a COVID-19 infection, it's stunning what that really means if you think about it," he said.

"We have a total green light to go ahead and begin that study," he added, referring to the go-ahead for a clinical trial in South Korea for Ifenprodil to treat coronavirus. Keep in mind this is what's known as an investigator-led study so there are physicians that are running this study - it's not a company driven, or what's known as a sponsored study, so we're in a supporting role. It just so happens that Ifenprodil is an approved drug in South Korea as well as Japan."

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