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Intercell and Romark Join Forces in Combining Therapies Against Hepatitis C
Date:10/21/2010

VIENNA, Oct. 21 /PRNewswire/ -- Intercell AG (VSE; "ICLL") and Romark Laboratories L.C. today announced plans to commence clinical trials of Intercell's investigational therapeutic Hepatitis C virus (HCV) vaccine, IC41, in combination with Romark's antiviral drug, nitazoxanide, during the first half of 2011.

Intercell's vaccine candidate has demonstrated a sustained reduction of viral load in chronic Hepatitis C (CHC) patients in a Phase II proof-of-concept trial. Nitazoxanide is an oral therapy that targets host cell factors involved in HCV replication and is not associated with viral mutations conferring resistance. Nitazoxanide has been shown to induce sustained virologic response as monotherapy in some patients chronically infected with HCV.

The planned European Phase II trial will include about 60 treatment-naïve patients chronically infected with HCV genotype-1 in three treatment arms: (1) IC41 plus nitazoxanide, (2) IC41 plus nitazoxanide and Pegasys® (peginterferon alfa-2a) and (3) Pegasys and Copegus® (ribavirin), the current standard of care, as an active control. The primary endpoint will be sustained virologic response (no detectable HCV RNA 24 weeks after end-of-treatment).

The companies involved in the combination study will retain commercial rights for their respective products.

"We are very pleased about this important next step in the development of our vaccine candidate against Hepatitis C. The distinctly different mode-of-action and the outstanding tolerability of both treatments create a joint approach in a field that will continue to have high unmet medical need over the next decades," stated Gerd Zettlmeissl, CEO of Intercell.

"We are excited about this novel therapeutic approach for chronic Hepatitis C," said Jean-Francois Rossignol, M.D., Ph.D., Chairman and Chief Science Officer of Romark. "There is an important need for novel therapies that offer improvements in safety and efficacy compared to current standard therapy. Our development program for nitazoxanide in combination with peginterferon addresses this need and promises to change paradigms for therapy of chronic Hepatitis C. The planned study of nitazoxanide in combination with Intercell's therapeutic vaccine further underscores our commitment to being a leader in the development of next-generation therapies."

Intercell's investigational therapeutic vaccine has been designed to restore an effective immune response against HCV, which ultimately is deemed necessary for sustained clearance of the virus. In a successful proof-of-concept trial involving around 50 treatment-naïve genotype-1 CHC patients, an optimized schedule of therapeutic vaccination achieved viral load reductions of more than 75% (0.6 log) in patients with high baseline RNA levels. Importantly, this reduction was sustained for at least six months following the end of treatment. As in previous trials with the vaccine from Intercell, vaccination was safe and well tolerated with minimal side effects.

Nitazoxanide, the first of a new class of broad-spectrum antiviral drugs called the thiazolides,(1,2,3) is an investigational new drug for CHC. It is a potent inhibitor of HCV in replicon studies,(2) and laboratory studies indicate that it does not induce viral mutations that confer drug resistance.(3,4) Nitazoxanide is synergistic with interferon and direct acting antivirals in replicon studies.(2,5) In a clinical trial of nitazoxanide monotherapy in patients with genotype 4 CHC, 17% (4 of 23) patients achieved sustained virologic response (undetectable serum HCV RNA 24 weeks after end of therapy), with all responders having low baseline serum HCV RNA levels (<400,000 IU/mL).(6) In other clinical trials, the addition of nitazoxanide to peginterferon or peginterferon plus ribavirin was associated with improvement in sustained virologic response rates without increasing the toxicities associated with peginterferon and ribavirin.(7,8) Romark is preparing to initiate Phase III clinical trials of nitazoxanide plus peginterferon for treatment of CHC.

About Hepatitis CHCV is a major cause of chronic liver disease, including cirrhosis and liver cancer. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 170 million people worldwide are chronic HCV carriers (3% of the world's population), including about 10 million Europeans, 3.9 million Americans and 2 million Japanese. 35,000 new infections occur in the United States alone each year. The substantial unmet medical need is underscored by the fact that each year 8,000 to 10,000 deaths and 1,000 liver transplants in the United States are due to HCV.

Currently, there is no vaccine against HCV available, and the infection can only be treated with a combination of interferon and ribavirin – a long-term therapy with limited efficacy and substantial side effects. It also gives rise to high treatment costs for patients. In 2002, worldwide sales of HCV drugs totaled around EUR 2.8bn, and demand has since grown significantly. The market has been seen to expand to about EUR 3.5bn by 2006.

About Romark LaboratoriesRomark Laboratories, L.C. (www.romark.com) is a privately owned biopharmaceutical company committed to the discovery and development of innovative new small molecules for treating infectious diseases and cancers.

The Company is developing a new class of broad-spectrum antiviral drugs called the thiazolides. The first thiazolide, nitazoxanide, is in late-stage clinical development as a treatment of chronic hepatitis C and influenza. Other new thiazolides are expected to enter clinical development in 2011.

Romark markets Alinia® (nitazoxanide) tablets, 500 mg and Alinia® (nitazoxanide) for Oral Suspension, 100 mg/5 mL in the United States.

This communication expressly or implicitly contains certain forward-looking statements concerning Intercell AG and its business. Such statements involve certain known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors which could cause the actual results, financial condition, performance or achievements of Intercell AG to be materially different from any future results, performance or achievements expressed or implied by such forward-looking statements. Intercell AG is providing this communication as of this date and does not undertake to update any forward-looking statements contained herein as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.____________________________(1) Rossignol JF. Thiazolides: A new class of antiviral drugs. Expert Opin Drug Metab Toxicol. 2009;5:667-674.(2) Korba BE, Montero AB, Farrar K, et al. Nitazoxanide, tizoxanide, and other thiazolides are potent inhibitors of hepatitis B virus and hepatitis C virus replication. Antivir Res. 2008;77:56-63.(3) Korba BE, Elazar M, Lui P, et al. Studies of the potential for hepatitis C virus resistance to nitazoxanide or tizoxanide. Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2008;52:4069-4071.(4) Yon C, Viswanathan P, Rossignol JF, Korba BE. Resistance to nitazoxanide is associated with alterations in the host and not the virus in HCV replicon-containing cultures. Submitted for publication.(5) Korba BE, Elazar M, Liu P, et al. Potential role for nitazoxanide in combination with STAT-C agents for the inhibition of HCV replication without the development of resistance. Hepatology. 2008;48(suppl):356A.(6) Rossignol JF, Kabil SM, El-Gohary Y, Elfert A, Keeffe EB. Clinical trial: randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of nitazoxanide monotherapy for the treatment of patients with chronic hepatitis C genotype 4. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2008;28:574-580.(7) Rossignol JF, Elfert A, El-Gohary Y, et al. Improved virologic response in patients with chronic hepatitis C genotype 4 treated with nitazoxanide plus peginterferon alfa-2a with or without ribavirin. Gastroenterology. 2009;136:856-862. (8) Rossignol JF, Elfert A, Keeffe EB. Treatment of chronic hepatitis C using a 4-week lead-in with nitazoxanide before peginterferon plus nitazoxanide. J Clin Gastroenterol. 2010;44:504-509.
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SOURCE Intercell AG
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