Ascentage Pharma has reported that its drug, olverembatinib (HQP1351), demonstrated a therapeutic potential to hinder SARS-CoV-2 omicron-mediated cytokine release in a preclinical study.

The study was carried out by scientists from Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, US.

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Currently, olverembatinib is approved to treat adults with tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI)-resistant chronic phase chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML-CP) or accelerated-phase CML (CML-AP) harbouring the T315I mutation, in China.

Researchers have found that the N-terminus domain (NTD) of the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus can facilitate inflammatory cytokine release in monocytes and PBMCs. 

The team also found in the study that the NTD of the Omicron variant can elicit the release of several cytokines, including IL-1β, IL-6, and the tumour necrosis factor (TNF-α), in PBMCs. 

Treatment with olverembatinib demonstrated increased Omicron-NTD-mediated cytokine release suppression versus ponatinib and baricitinib.

Baricitinib is a Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved drug to treat Covid-19.

Furthermore, olverembatinib hinders the activity of various kinases involved in cytokine signalling to slow down the Omicron-NTD-mediated cytokine release and lower inflammations. 

The latest data shows that agents, such as olverembatinib, that act on various kinases needed for the virus and variant mediated cytokine release could be an option for moderate to severe Covid-19 treatment.

Olverembatinib is presently being analysed in various trials in the US and China to treat CML, acute lymphocytic leukaemia and gastrointestinal stromal tumour.

Ascentage Pharma chairman and CEO Dr Dajun Yang said: “Olverembatinib is a drug candidate we have studied for many years. 

“As the world’s second third-generation BCR-ABL TKI entering clinical development in the US, and one of the few China-developed novel drug candidates positioned for the global market from the very beginning, olverembatinib has demonstrated excellent efficacy and safety, leading to the approval for the treatment of drug-resistant CML in China last year.”