Six months after kicking off a Phase I trial for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) treatment AGMB-447, Agomab Therapeutics has now secured a US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) orphan drug designation for the asset.

The Belgium-based biotech will now be in line for tax credits for US-based clinical trials and, if the therapy is approved, the potential for seven years of market exclusivity in the designated indication.

IPF is a rare, chronic lung disease that affects the air sacs – called alveoli – in the lungs. The condition is characterised by thickening of lung tissue that becomes stiff, causing breathing difficulties. It is not known what causes the disease, though the risk is increased with smoking and a family history of IPF.

There are currently two FDA-approved drugs for IPF, Boehringer Ingelheim’s Ofev (nintedanib) and Genentech’s Esbriet (pirfenidone). Ofev is a tyrosine kinase inhibitor whilst Esbriet targets TGF-beta, a chemical mediator that plays a role in development of fibrosis.

Agomab has gone down a similar route to Genentech, with AGMB-447 blocking the action of the TGFβ type 1 receptor. Agomab’s USP is that AGMB-447, which is inhaled, inhibits the TGFβ type 1 receptor, also known as ALK5, only in the lung. The biotech has achieved this by designing the drug to be rapidly metabolised through hydrolysis in the plasma, preventing exposure throughout the whole body.

Agomab is evaluating AGMB-447 in a placebo-controlled Phase I trial that aims to enrol 76 patients with IPF. Participants will either receive a single dose or multiple doses of AGMB-447, the latter treatment will occur in two cohorts over seven days or 14 days. The randomised trial has primary endpoints comprising safety assessments up to eight weeks after therapy. Secondary endpoints include pharmacokinetic measurements. The biotech dosed the first patient in December 2023.

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Agomab’s chief medical officer Philippe Wiesel said: “As we progress through our ongoing first-in-human Phase I trial, we look forward to evaluating the data from the single ascending dose and multiple ascending dose evaluation of AGMB-447 in healthy subjects and IPF patients.”

Agomab secured $100m in Series C financing in October 2023. In a statement at the time, the biotech said it would use part of the funds to progress Crohn’s disease candidate AGMB-129 – also an ALK5 inhibitor – through Phase II trials.

Agomab’s designation comes only a few weeks after Alentis Therapeutics won orphan drug status for its candidate lixudebart in IPF. In the same announcement as its orphan drug designation, Alentis reported positive safety results from a Phase I trial evaluating lixudebart in IPF patients.