Eisbach Bio develops a drug against COVID-19

Interview with Dr. Adrian Schomburg, CEO und Prof. Andreas Ladurner, CSO Eisbach Bio

Interview with Dr. Adrian Schomburg, CEO und Prof. Andreas Ladurner, CSO Eisbach Bio

Eisbach Bio, a biotechnology company targeting the molecular machines that drive human disease, announced additional financial support from the German Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) for the clinical development of its first-in-class SARS-CoV-2 helicase inhibitor in July 2021. The total funding of EUR 8 million will support the clinical development of the Company’s novel COVID-19 therapeutic following the recent completion of its preclinical development. Susanne Simon, Head of Press and Public Relations IZB, interviewed the top researchers of Eisbach Bio for the “IZB Biotech News”.

Why is Eisbach Bio developing a cancer drug and an antiviral drug against COVID-19?
Dr. Adrian Schomburg: Eisbach Bio started off developing drugs against cancer that target a specific class of enzymes. When we analyzed the sequences of the Coronavirus, we found that it has an enzyme which is very similar to the molecular machine that we target in cancer. So, in cancer, our inhibitors cause cell death. And when we inhibit that related enzyme in COVID, we found that it blocks viral replication very efficiently. So, it was quiet natural for us to start a drug development campaign early last year and we are now at the stage that this could enter the clinic very soon.

What technology do you use?
Prof.  Andreas Ladurner: Our task at Eisbach is to develop medicines that suppress the activity of very specific molecular machines. Like any other machine in our human body, our targets have a powerful motor. Now you could poison the fuel of that motor, but such medicines would likely not be very selective, very specific. Based on some foundational work that we pioneered, we discovered that each of these molecular machines is also highly regulated, which means that they have a very specific ignition mechanism. We now therefore have the ability to target the ignition, rather than to poison the fuel. This gives us a great opportunity to develop drugs that are highly selective, targeting specifically the enzymes that we want to inhibit. We believe that our molecules will not only be more effective, but also show less side effects than conventional therapies.

What is the advantage of your COVID-19 drug?
Dr. Adrian Schomburg: So far, we didn´t observe any side effects of our drug. Which is why we think it can be taken very early on, when you have the first symptoms. You would take it as a pill that is orally available, once a day. And the treatment course, because the drug is so easy and cheap to manufacture, would probably cost in the range of less than 100 Euros for a seven-day treatment.

When will the drug be available?
Dr. Adrian Schomburg:That´s an excellent question. I think the time to market really depends on how efficacious the drug is in the clinic. We will start the Phase 1 trial in the first quarter of next year. And if the drug is, as we expect, nicely active, then it could actually be approved already in the next year.

How do you finance the clinical trials?
Dr. Adrian Schomburg: Initially, we financed it ourselves. Based on early results, we then received a generous private donation and a first grant from the BMBF. The eight million Euros from the BMBF will now be used for the large-scale manufacturing of our drug candidate, the early-stage safety testing and the testing on the first cohort of COVID patients next year.

What does the location at the IZB mean to your company´s success?
Prof. Andreas Ladurner: The IZB is an outstanding location. We are connected right in the middle here between a top German university and a top international research institute. It is a great place for recruiting staff. It is a great place for me as a mentor and Chief Scientific Officer to promote the young scientists and talents that we have on this campus, guide them and help them be successful at this translational effort.