Less than three years after its foundation, the start-up G.ST Antivirals reaches a major milestone in the development of its lead asset and begins clinical phase I at the Vienna General Hospital. G.ST Antivirals is testing a nasal spray, which was developed specifically for use against colds and other upper respiratory tract infections.
Based on years of research into metabolic changes in infected cells, the new nasal spray is designed to inhibit rhinoviruses in their reproduction by preventing glucose utilisation and consequently starving them. This stops the spread of the virus and successfully combats it. The initial focus is on classical colds – additionally, the therapeutic approach is promising for prevention and treatment of various respiratory diseases, including Covid-19. The clinical phase I started on March 31st at the Department of Clinical Pharmacology at the Vienna General Hospital: the first of 45 probands was enrolled. The aim of phase I is to investigate the safety of the substance. The following phase II, which is expected to take place in 2023, will examine the effectiveness of the substance for infected people. The market launch is scheduled to take place in three to four years.
The pandemic has shown that the treatment of viral infections is an incredibly important field of research. But the importance goes far beyond Covid-19: Rhinoviruses, which are the focus of our studies, are among the most common pathogens in various respiratory diseases. These include the classical cold, but also aggravations of conditions like asthma and cystic fibrosis in childhood and in COPD patients,” says Dr. Guido Gualdoni, G.ST Antivirals Co-Founder and Managing Director. “
Although millions of people get a cold every year, no drug has yet been able to stop the virus from multiplying. Our innovative therapeutic approach deprives viruses of the basis for their reproduction. The results so far make us confident that we will be able to provide an effective drug soon.”
First curative drug against rhinoviruses
For more than nine years, the physicians and founders Dr. Guido Gualdoni and Prof. Johannes Stöckl studied the mechanism underlying the therapy at the Medical University of Vienna. The core finding: Cells infected with viruses switch to an anabolic metabolic state and react particularly sensitive to an inhibition of sugar utilisation at this stage. Based on this discovery, the research duo developed a highly effective, patented therapy against rhinoviruses. The pathogens, which cause colds and rhinitis among other things, use the metabolism of the infected cell for their reproduction. To this end, they depend on a constant supply of sugar. This is precisely where the new therapeutic approach of G.ST Antivirals comes in: The nasal spray contains a glucose analogue that inhibits the utilisation of sugar by rhinovirus and therefore significantly prevents it from reproducing.
Many areas of research are still unexplored in the field of respiratory diseases – we want to close this gap with our approach. Unlike many other concepts, our technology does not focus on the virus itself, but on the treatment of the host cell. This perspective ensures particularly diverse application possibilities and the development of resistance is highly unlikely,” explains Gualdoni.