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A first in class antiviral for Lassa Hemorrhagic Fever

The recent outbreaks of Zika virus and Ebola highlight the risks posed by emerging viruses and the need to develop effective medical countermeasures. Arenaviruses including Lassa fever, Junin and Machupo pose a global health threat in underdeveloped communities in Africa and South America where the infections are endemic. Additionally, there is growing concern that viruses such as Lassa fever, which are highly pathogenic and cause fatal hemorrhagic fever, are a significant biodefense threat to developed countries.

Lassa hemorrhagic fever is an acute viral illness that is known to be endemic in Benin, Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and parts of Nigeria, but likely exists in other West African countries as well.1 Lassa fever causes 100,000-300,000 infections and is responsible for ~5000 deaths annually in West Africa. Death rates are particularly high for women in the third trimester of pregnancy and fetal loss occurs in nearly all infected pregnant women.2  There is a significant unmet medical need as there are currently no therapeutics or vaccines that are indicated to treat Lassa fever.

LHF-535 is a first-in-class antiviral treatment with potent activity against Lassa and other arenaviruses. It inhibits virus entry into target host cells and serves to suppress viral replication. It has demonstrated safety and efficacy in preclinical models. In preclinical studies, LHF-535, reduced virus titers and provided complete survival when administered as a therapeutic in animals infected with Lassa. LHF-535 is a small molecule therapy with good oral bioavailability and pharmacokinetics, supporting once-daily administration.

Kineta is receiving funding from the Wellcome Trust to advance LHF-535 through Phase I human safety studies.

1. WHO Lassa Fever Fact Sheet
2. CDC Lassa Fever Fact Sheet