Two dengue treatments slated for PhII in Singapore next year

Two dengue treatment options are slated for Phase II trials in Singapore next year as efforts to get vaccines by Sanofi ($SNY) and Takeda Pharmaceutical to the market also gather steam.

Singapore's National Medical Research Council awarded a grant to the Singapore General Hospital for studies on the antiviral celgosivir and disease-modifying modipafant into Phase II clinical trials next March, Healio said, citing a press release.

Celgosivir is an alpha glucosidase inhibitor and modipafant and platelet-activating factor receptor antagonist, Healio said, adding that the work will be carried out by a company called 60 Degrees Pharmaceuticals along with hospital clinicians to evaluate safety and efficacy.

Singapore as an equatorial nation and travel hub has regular cases of dengue that sometimes flare up, causing strong efforts by the government to reduce the spread as hospitalization costs can be hefty as well as the impact on public health overall.

"Other viral diseases such as hepatitis C and HIV required combination regimens to demonstrate clinical benefit," Geoff Dow, CEO of 60 Degrees Pharmaceuticals said in the press release. "This may also be the case for dengue."

A Phase Ib trial of celgosivir with results published in the Lancet in August 2014 showed that although the drug was generally safe and well tolerated, Healio said, adding that it did not appear to reduce viral load or fever burden in dengue patients.

The release noted that U.S. FDA-approved vaccines or antiviral drugs do not exist for dengue and treatment is limited to supportive and symptomatic care.

In June, Takeda Pharmaceutical moved to consolidate its Vaccine Business Unit into hubs to allow sharper focus on a complex set of vaccine programs covering norovirus, dengue and seasonal influenza in an increasingly competitive global horse race.

For Takeda, a key will be the success, or lack thereof, of Sanofi's rollout plans at the public-health level for a dengue vaccine that has a high-stakes manufacturing and approval strategy as early as this year.

Sanofi CEO Olivier Brandicourt

In a second-quarter earnings call, Sanofi CEO Oliver Brandicourt was upbeat on the launch of a dengue vaccine this year, expecting the first license to be granted before the end of 2015, though Olivier Charmeil, executive vice president for vaccines, said it was a "little bit too premature" to discuss plans for the ramp up.

"As we speak we have filed in 7 countries. We will have filed in 20 countries by the end of the year that represent roughly half of the worldwide population at risk of dengue," he said, adding that the ramp-up for 2016 and 2017 onwards will be "very much dependent on the objective country-by-country in terms of getting the impact of dengue reduction."

In April, Takeda said it was eyeing Phase III for its own dengue vaccine candidate. The company has also hinted it is open to acquisitions in India and elsewhere in the vaccines business.

- here's the story from Healio