US-based pharma company ReAlta Life Sciences has teamed up with the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) to evaluate its acute radiation syndrome (ARS) drug RLS-0071 (PIC1-01). 

Scientists at the Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute (AFRRI), with support from the Radiation and Nuclear Countermeasures Program (RNCP) at NIAID, will assess RLS-0071’s effectiveness in reducing gastrointestinal damage from ARS using a mouse model in preclinical research collaboration.  

ARS is a severe condition that occurs when a person is exposed to high levels of ionising radiation, usually within a short period. Symptoms can vary depending on the dose and duration of exposure but typically include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, and in severe cases, damage to the gastrointestinal tract. Symptoms worsen as the radiation exposure increases. 

RLS-0071, ReAlta’s leading candidate, is a 15 amino acid peptide conjugated with polyethylene glycol (PEG) and acts by targeting the complement C1q. The drug has received investigational new drug (IND) clearance by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treating acute exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and acute graft-versus-host disease, and also holds IND clearance, orphan drug designation, and fast track designation for hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), as well as an orphan drug designation from the European Medicines Agency. 

In the announcement accompanying the collaboration, ReAlta’s chief scientific officer Neel Krishna said: “The anti-inflammatory, dual mechanism-of-action of RLS-0071 enables the rapid inhibition of both complement activation and neutrophil effectors that are key initiators of deadly inflammation in ARS.” 

In July 2023, Pluri signed a three-year contract worth $4.2m with the NIAID and the US Department of Defense (DoD) to develop its cell therapy avoplacel (PLX-R18) to treat haematopoietic ARS or radiation poisoning. The same month, RedHill Biopharma received additional funds worth $1.7m from the US Government to advance the development of Yeliva (opaganib) as a medical countermeasure for gastrointestinal ARS. 

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Other drugs currently under development for acute radiation sickness include South Korea-based Enzychem Lifesciences’ Phase II mosedipimod (EC-18), and New Amsterdam Sciences’ Phase I small molecule NAS-150 (AEOL-10150).