Cold sores plagued 67% of people under 50 in 2012. AiCuris is developing a cure, Pritelivir, and it just cleared Phase I trials. It could be superior to treatments currently on the market.
Cold sores, known as recurrent labial herpes in medical speak, are painful and embarrassing for anyone unlucky enough to catch them. Moreover, they’re highly infectious, so if this is you, kiss responsibly. It’s little comfort that you’d be one of 3.7 billion people worldwide to be infected with them (2012).
These sores are caused by Herpes Simplex Virus 1 (HSV-1); HSV-2 is the strain that causes their genital counterpart, which is as bad as it sounds. Fortunately, AiCuris is developing a cure for these viruses: Pritelivir just reached its primary endpoint in Phase I as a topical treatment for HSV-1, outperforming those currently available (valacyclovir) without causing any long-lasting irritation. This trial will also be included as part of a second Phase II trial for an oral treatment targeting HSV-2.
Both Pritelivir and its predecessors work by inhibiting the virus’s helicase-primase complex. This effectively terminates DNA elongation prematurely, preventing the replication of the virus. Current standard HSV treatments have been nucleoside analogues (e.g. acyclovir and its prodrug valacyclovir), but Pritelivir is a derived from a totally different class of small molecule as a thiazolylamide.
Since its foundation as a spin-off from Bayer, AiCuris has been focused on developing treatments and cures for infectious diseases, including HSV, Hepatitis B, and adenoviruses. They are also interested in neutralising the threat of resistant pathogens like MRSA. To hear more about the company, check out our interview the the CEO last winter.
UPDATE (Original Publication 24/08/2016): AiCuris announced that it has begun Phase II trials.
Featured Image: Herpes Simplex Infection (P0/Public Domain, Yale Rosen/Flickr)
Figure 1: Herpes-infected squamous cells, ThinPrep (CC2.0, Ed Uthman/Flickr)