A statin-based drug candidate is being touted as a potential rival to Roche's flu vaccine Tamiflu (oseltamivir phosphate) after its developers revealed yesterday that it showed "superiority" in the preclinic.
The compound, called StatC is a new formulation of two already marketed drugs - any prescription statin, with another [undisclosed] molecule - which in combination "work to produce an antiviral effect that prevents influenza infection," Canopus BioPharma said in a statement.
The biotech firm was not available for comment prior to publishing to elaborate on this.
Statins are widely used throughout the world to reduce cholesterol. The use of a statin as part of a flu vaccine is a first and exactly how it combines with the mystery molecule to protect against flu is unclear.
In results that it described as "groundbreaking," Canopus said that research in mouse models found that its intranasally-administered StatC was "superior to Tamiflu in preventing influenza in three different strains of the virus - Avian Flu [H5N1 virus], Spanish Flu and Hong Kong Flu".
"Demonstrating significant improvement, 30 per cent of StatC-treated [mouse] lung samples had [H5N1 flu] virus detected in comparison to 50 per cent of Tamiflu treated samples", said Canopus.
"Histopathology which measures lung damage due to influenza infection demonstrated in these studies that mice treated with StatC had statistically significant reduction in lung damage as compared to the group treated with Tamiflu," along with a "greater reduction in inflammation of lung tissue" - the principle cause of flu-related hospitalisation and death.
Thousands of people around the world die from the flu each year and the threat of a global pandemic, that could threaten millions of people, is also ever-looming. The current gold standard in flu prevention is via yearly flu vaccination.
Tamiflu is the currently the world's number one flu vaccine with a market size of $2.2bn (€1.6bn). Other companies marketing and developing vaccines in this billion dollar market include GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis, Novavax, Sanofi Pasteur and Sinovac Biotech.
Moving forward, Canopus said its development plan for StatC includes "continued animal testing in partnership with its extensive network of European- and Chinese-based biotechnology research laboratories".
The firm is also planning a "human influenza challenge study" to compare StatC as a prevention against other currently available flu antivirals.