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Pharma firm makes RSV vaccine candidate breakthrough with artificial intelligence

City AM logo City AM 12/21/2022 Millie Turner

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Biopharmaceutical firm Poolbeg Pharma has found a number of RSV vaccine candidates via artificial intelligence (AI), in a landmark move in finding a treatment for the virus.

The London-listed company has prioritised candidates with existing early-stage clinical data, which could be repositioned into novel treatments for RSV infection.

Candidates with solid safety data in humans are well positioned to rapidly enter a clinical trial to generate early human efficacy data for RSV, the company announced on Wednesday.

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RSV, which inflames the smallest airways in the lungs, can be dangerous for children or the elderly and is part of the so-called ‘tripledemic’ the NHS and the US health system is currently facing.

However, the virus has limited treatment options.

Poolbeg Pharma boss Jeremy Skillington said: “In the past few months, RSV has been sending children to hospital at alarming rates in the United States and Europe. As paediatric units fill beyond capacity, and our healthcare systems contend with a ‘tripledemic’ of RSV, influenza and SARS-CoV-2, the need for better treatments has never been so urgent.

“We’re impressed with the quality of work executed so far with OneThree leveraging their AI expertise to present new drug potential candidates from our unique human challenge trial data which Poolbeg will now optimise for further development in RSV, the only one of the three main respiratory illnesses for which there are not yet any approved vaccines and where treatment options are limited.”

British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) announced in October it had come close to creating an RSV vaccine, with “exceptional” results from its latest trial.

GSK’s potential jab had an overall efficacy of 82.6 per cent, and was hailed as a “pivotal” step in finding a vaccine against RSV after 60-years of research by GSK’s chief scientific officer, Tony Wood, at the time.

The Big Pharma firm has tabled plans for regulatory submissions towards to the end of this year, making a launch in preparation for the 2024/25 RSV season looking likely, according to senior analyst at pharmaceutical data company Citeline, Natasha Boliter.

However, GSK is racing the likes of Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson – which are also working on an RSV treatment – for what is expected to be billions of pounds worth of sales.

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