OncoArendi Therapeutics SA today signed an agreement with VIB, one of the world leading life science research institutes. The scope of this research collaboration focuses on the role of chitinase and chitinase-like-proteins (CLPs) in COVID-19 and subsequent complication. This collaboration can lead to identification of new drug candidates that can alleviate COVID-19 complications, such as lung fibrosis.
The collaboration involves the research group of Prof. Bart Lambrecht at the VIB-UGent Center for Inflammation Research, currently also involved in several COVID-19 clinical trials at the University Hospital Ghent. The aim of this collaboration is to investigate the role of two proteins from the chitinase family – CHIT1 and YKL-40, for which OncoArendi is currently developing small molecule inhibitors. A better understanding of their role in lung diseases, in particular in patients after a SARS-CoV-2 infection, may contribute to developing these drug candidates for treatment of post COVID-19 complications.
“We look forward to broadening this key scientific collaboration with the research group of Prof. Bart Lambrecht, one of the world’s thought leaders in pulmonary diseases” – says Rafał Kaminski, CSO and Board Member of OncoArendi Therapeutics. “The planned research experiments can pave new paths and therapeutic use for the drug candidates that we are discovering and developing, which could help alleviate some of the serious complications for COVID-19 patients. At the same time, the unique animal models of the disease and scientific techniques of Prof. Lambrecht’s group at VIB can improve our understanding of the postulated mechanism of action for our molecules in treatment of lung diseases. This in turn increases the probability of commercializing one or both of our R&D programs by partnering it with a global biopharmaceutical company” – adds Rafał Kamiński.
The research group of Prof. Lambrecht is planning experiments to investigate the role of CHIT1 and YKL-40 proteins in the progression of post-COVID complications, such as progressive lung fibrosis. Very preliminary data from a few patients suggest a strong overexpression of the YKL-40 protein in plasma of COVID-19 patients, in particular those with the more severe course of the disease.
The experts from VIB have developed unique mouse models mimicking the COVID-19 disease, especially a humanized version infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus. In these models the animals can develop lung pathologies following the infection. After investigating and confirming the role of the targeted proteins in genetically modified models, we intend to test OncoArendi’s CHIT1 and YKL-40 inhibitors in those models to confirm their efficacy.
If CHIT1 inhibitors prove efficacious in these sophisticated mouse models and the translational studies confirm elevated expression of CHIT1 in patients with observed lung fibrosis after COVID-19, OATD-01, a phase II ready drug candidate can potentially be used in a preventing / therapeutic fashion in this population of COVID-19 survivors. Likewise, if this is true about YKL-40, then currently developed YKL-40 inhibitors could be developed to treat COVID-19 patients to reduce or prevent the progression of lung fibrosis.