Following the successes with its Ebola biodefense program, Tekmira has started to present increasingly promising data for treating a related filovirus, the Marburg virus. With 100% survival rates in non-human primate models and new RNAi triggers that should cover a broad spectrum of strains and possibly related viruses, the company is well positioned to also take away the Marburg indication from competitor Sarepta which in turn has become preoccupied with its exon-skipping drug candidate for DMD.
Tekmira and their collaborators from the UTMB in Galveston, Texas, reported the successful treatment of guinea pigs infected with a number of different strains of the Marburg virus. Because the development of treatments for rapidly mutating viruses and viruses with a multitude of divergent strains is hampered by sequence diversity, a broader strain coverage was achieved, like in Tekmira’s Ebola approach or in Arrowhead’s chronic HepB strategy (ARC520), through the concurrent use of two siRNAs in a single formulation.
Chief Scientific Officer of the company, Ian MacLachlan, presented gold standard non-human primate data of SNALP RNAi Therapeutics for Marburg virus at the ongoing OligoDIA regulator-industry conference. Accordingly, Tekmira’s newer LNP formulations (‘SNALP-G’) were shown to fully protect monkeys from death due to Marburg infection when given at 0.5mg/kg (=the magic safety threshold for SNALP). As an important comparison, Sarepta last year reported ‘83% to 100%’ protection rates in comparable models when treatment was initiated up to 96 hours after infections with its newer PMOplus morpholino chemistry. It is therefore of interest to test the impact of further delaying treatment with SNALPs.
RNAi therapeutics have the potential to treat a broad number of human diseases by "silencing" disease causing genes. The discoverers of RNAi, a gene silencing mechanism used by all cells, were awarded the 2006 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine. RNAi therapeutics, such as "siRNAs," require delivery technology to be effective systemically. Tekmira believes its LNP technology represents the most widely adopted delivery technology for the systemic delivery of RNAi therapeutics. Tekmira's LNP platform is being utilized in multiple clinical trials by both Tekmira and its partners. Tekmira's LNP technology (formerly referred to as stable nucleic acid-lipid particles or SNALP) encapsulates siRNAs with high efficiency in uniform lipid nanoparticles that are effective in delivering RNAi therapeutics to disease sites in numerous preclinical models. Tekmira's LNP formulations are manufactured by a proprietary method which is robust, scalable and highly reproducible, and LNP-based products have been reviewed by multiple FDA divisions for use in clinical trials. LNP formulations comprise several lipid components that can be adjusted to suit the specific application.