Cytovation has raised over €3M to finish off pre-clinical testing of its treatment for warts, and to take it into the clinic.

Norwegian biotech Cytovation is developing technology for the treatment of dermatological problems, including cutaneous warts caused by human papillomavirus. It lead candidate, CyPep-H1, uses a new mechanism of action to specifically target and destroy cells infected by the virus. The company has raised NOK 30M (€3.1M) from private investors in Norway, which will be used to progress the candidate through the final stages of pre-clinical development and into and through a Phase I/IIa clinical trial.

Warts are non-cancerous skin growths that are caused by the infection of the top layer of the skin. Infection is more likely if the skin is cut or damaged in some way, allowing the virus to gain entry. When a human papillomavirus (HPV) infection occurs, it causes a rapid growth of cells that produces the wart. There are more 150 types of HPV virus, which spread quickly from person to person, causing cutaneous and genital warts, as well as cancers of the throat, rectum, and cervix.

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CyPep-H1 is a lytic peptide made up of 27 amino acids that selectively targets negatively charged infected cells, breaks down their membrane, and kills them. When a cell is destroyed, its contents are released, revealing antigens associated with the pathogen to the immune system. This triggers an immune response that clears the infection and may provide long-term protection against warts.

A common approach to removing warts is to ‘freeze’ them off.

The team at Cytovation believes that the candidate’s mechanism of action means it could have a number of applications for various dermatological diseases but, for now, it will focus on warts. Although they tend not to be dangerous, the potential for a wart to develop into cancer means that a fast and effective treatment is needed.

The market for HPV treatments is expected to increase in size by almost 8% between 2014 and 2020, which would see it reach $2.34B (€2B). The current market leader is Valeant Pharmaceuticals, a big pharma based in Canada that has had a difficult time of it lately, which specializes in dermatology, as well as eye, gastrointestinal, and neurological health. In Europe, Spanish pharma company, Almirall, has released Actikerall for the treatment of warts. Cytovation will hope that its ability to innovate as a biotech will allow it to challenge its pharma counterparts.


Images – Marcel Jancovic / shutterstock.com; Evgeniy Kalinovskiy / shutterstock.com

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