French biotechnology company Abivax has discovered new antiviral molecules and is screening them to develop therapeutic candidates against dengue fever.

Dengue is transmitted by mosquitoes and causes a flu-like syndrome, but can also lead to severe dengue disease.

Several molecules recently discovered by the company are active against the virus in vitro, and some of them could be developed as therapeutic drug-candidates.

Abivax CEO Hartmut Ehrlich said: “The Abivax antiviral platform, which consists of a library of more than 1,000 small molecules targeting the modulation of viral RNA splicing, is an established tool for identifying promising antiviral compounds.

“Our technology has already been validated by providing product candidates against a number of viral diseases, including HIV and chikungunya.”

"New Caledonian health authorities have declared this outbreak a public health emergency."

At present, the company is screening its antiviral library, targeting the modulation of viral RNA splicing for molecules that are active against all four dengue serotypes.

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Several molecules against serotype 2 were identified in the initial screening.

These hits are planned to be analysed on their ability to inhibit the replication of the other serotypes.

Abivax chief medical officer Jean-Marc Steens said: “This early progress and investment in drug development is important in view of the more than 600 cases of dengue fever that have been reported since January in the French territory of New Caledonia alone.

“New Caledonian health authorities have declared this outbreak a public health emergency.”

The company aims to develop a single molecule that is active against all serotypes of dengue.