Metriopharm's early intervention treatment for mild-moderate COVID 19
Metriopharm’s ‘iMPact’ project was awarded a €7.9 million grant from the COVID-19 work programme from Horizon Europe, to clinically validate MP1032, an early intervention treatment against mild-to-moderate COVID-19. Catalyze provided support to Metriopharm for their successful application and now supports iMPact as a project partner, providing project management and dissemination services. We spoke with Dr. Wolfgang Brysch, Chief Scientific Officer and Chief Medical Officer of Metriopharm, to hear more about their mission, the iMPact project, and the partnership with Catalyze.
Metriopharm’s MP1032 molecule with SARS-CoV-2. Image from Metriopharm.
“We have high standards for our service partners and from previous experiences we were a little weary. However, from our first interaction with Catalyze, it was clear that they are doing a very professional job. I must say, our expectations were exceeded through the work. I think it was a great collaboration.” – Dr. Wolfgang Brysch
Headquarted in Zurich, Metriopharm is a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company on a mission to create new therapies for acute and chronic inflammatory diseases. The principle focus at Metriopharm is to develop new anti-inflammatories. In particular, they have conducted trials in autoimmune diseases with their lead drug MP1032, a novel, orally available immune-modulator, which as Dr. Brysch explains, was found to also have strong anti-viral efficacy.
“While our focus remains in treating chronic inflammatory diseases, in early 2020 we started thinking that maybe our drug, which is a very safe anti-inflammatory drug, could be of value in treating COVID-19, an acute inflammatory disease. We felt compelled to try this.
“Through a collaboration with the Virology lab at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, we tested our lead drug MP1032 against SARS-CoV-2 in preclinical viral infection models and we found that this molecule also has an anti-viral effect.”
The focus of iMPact: MP1032
MP1032 works by targeting the cellular redox balance, detecting excess levels of reactive oxygen species and scavenging them. In this way, MP1032 functions as a remedy for oxidative stress in infectious cells, reversing the conditions that promote COVID-19 disease progression. With its combined anti-SARS-CoV-2 and anti-cytokine activity, MP1032 can target both the viral replication and immune over-activation of COVID-19.
Wolfgang says, “It seems to be that the RNA viruses are shifting the cellular redox balance a bit to sort of reprogram the cell to produce virus particles, rather than doing its own job. Our drug can re-shift this balance back to the normal physiological state.
“Where we really see the potential is that MP1032 is very virus-type agnostic, so it should work with any kind of future COVID-19 mutation or new virus that comes up. So, potentially COVID is just the proof of concept that MP1032 as a general compound, could be used in future pandemics.”
Creating iMPact and partnering with Catalyze
With the April 2021 opening of the Horizon Europe COVID-19 call entitled, ‘Vaccines & therapeutic clinical trials to boost COVID-19 prevention and treatment’, and a subsequent deadline in May, Metriopharm had a small window to capitalize on the funding opportunity.
Wolfgang describes finding Catalyze, “We have high standards for our service partners and from previous experiences we were a little weary. However, from our first interaction with Catalyze, it was clear that they are doing a very professional job. I must say, our expectations were overfulfilled through the work. I think it was a great collaboration.”
Despite the limited time-window, Metriopharm and Catalyze were able to prepare a winning proposal. Dr. Brysch highlights some valuable aspects of the support they received:
“Catalyze are well experienced with this kind of call. They know what material and data is needed, and how to structure them to fit into the correct framework. This is something we could not have achieved in this short timeframe, without an experienced partner. Even with a longer time, we would have benefited a lot from Catalyze’s input. And of course, the success in the call speaks for itself.”
Dr. Wolfgang Brysch, CSO and CMO at Metriopharm
iMPact is underway and in-clinic
Metriopharm’s iMPact project commenced in August 2021 with the aim to clinically validate their lead compound MP1032 in symptomatic, hospitalized COVID-19 patients. Phase II clinical trials are currently underway and are investigating MP1032’s ability to stop COVID-19 disease progression, reduce hospitalization times and potentially even prevent cases of ‘Long Covid’.
As Dr. Brysch mentions, the latest wave of COVID-19 infections has created difficulties, but they are moving ahead:
“In the current environment, there are many challenges in navigating a trial, because the clinical sites are now under a huge amount of pressure work-wise. The major milestone and basically the focal point of everything is, of course, the top line data of the clinical trial, which we expect next year. This will inform us of when and how to move forward.”
Bringing MP1032 to market could significantly reduce the disease burden of COVID-19 through reducing the strain on hospitals from COVID-19 patients, freeing up capacity to provide higher quality of care to other non-COVID patients.
Wolfgang explains, “The rationale is basically, if we can mitigate the disease severity enough, then COVID is not a problem anymore. If people are no longer dying from it and have only mild symptoms, then this pandemic is manageable for society.”
Catalyze as project partner
‘iMPact’ consists of a consortium of 4 partners, with Metriopharm leading the project. Wolfgang describes Catalyze’s role as partner:
“Another sort of positive surprise was that Catalyze also have the capability and the experience, to be a partner delivering management of the project. So Catalyze continues to be of added value, as now we have someone experienced along the way managing the project with respect to the EU and reporting everything etc.”
Wolfgang finishes, “We are very experienced in drug development and R&D. But these requirements for project reporting and dissemination are new to us, and the guidance Catalyze can give there is really a great help.”
Catalyze is proud to partner with Metriopharm and work towards the successful delivery and communication of the iMPact project.
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