Atriva Therapeutics has received seed funding to advance the development of a better therapy for influenza in patients at high risk.

Atriva Therapeutics was founded in Tübingen, Germany in 2015 with a quite particular aim: repurposing cancer drugs to treat influenza. Two private investors, the Dutch Stichting Participatie Atriva and the German High-Tech Gründerfonds (HTGF) have contributed with an undisclosed amount of seed funding that will help the young biotech push its first drug candidate to the clinic.

Atriva’s lead candidate, ATR-002, is expected to enter clinical trials in 2018. The drug is intended for treating influenza in high-risk patients with severe respiratory complications due to bacterial co-infections. These cases exceed 12 million annually and there’s no therapy available for them. Current medications, neuraminidase inhibitors, are not approved in this patient group because of lack of efficacy.

The German biotech wants to change this situation by repurposing oncology drugs that are already approved or in advanced clinical development for the treatment of influenza. The compounds in question are MEK inhibitors, which target intracellular signaling factors essential for viral replication.

Atriva Therapeutics seed funding Influenza virus

Influenza virus

Compared to existing influenza drugs such as Tamiflu (oseltamivir), MEK inhibitors have a larger therapeutic time, no risk of inducing resistance and can suppress dangerous bacterial co-infections of the lungs. In addition, available safety and tolerability data from previous trials can shorten the development time.

Atriva Therapeutics estimates that the accessible global market potential of its MEK inhibitors could exceed €2.8Bn in 2020. And that’s without counting stock-piling of influenza therapeutics for the prevention of pandemics.

With clear advantages over existing drugs, the company could make a big entrance in the market. However, it will have to watch out for indirect competitors, such as Humabsantibody against influenza A or Sanofi’s universal flu vaccine.


Images from Irina Bg /Shutterstock, Atriva Therapeutics

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