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Arbutus Biopharma, X-Chem and Proteros Biostructures Enter Into a Pan-Coronavirus Discovery Research and License Agreement

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Arbutus Biopharma Corporation, X-Chem, Inc., and Proteros biostructures GmbH (Proteros) announced today that they have entered into a discovery research and license agreement focused on the discovery of novel inhibitors targeting the SARS-CoV-2 nsp5 main protease (Mpro).

The agreement is designed to accelerate the development of pan-coronavirus agents to treat COVID-19 and potential future coronavirus outbreaks.

This collaboration brings together Arbutus’ expertise in the discovery and development of antiviral agents with X-Chem’s industry-leading DNA-encoded library (DEL) technology and Proteros’ protein sciences, biophysics and structural biology capabilities and provides important synergies to potentially identify safe and effective therapies against coronaviruses including SARS-CoV-2. The collaboration will allow for the rapid screening of one of the largest small molecule libraries against Mpro (an essential protein required for the virus to replicate itself) and the use of state-of-the-art structure-guided methods to rapidly optimize Mpro inhibitors, which Arbutus could potentially progress to clinical candidates. The financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

“It is well accepted that in addition to the availability of vaccines, effective and safe therapies are needed to successfully combat the COVID-19 pandemic and any future coronavirus outbreaks,” stated Dr. Michael Sofia, Arbutus’s Chief Scientific Officer. “Arbutus, X-Chem, and Proteros have complementary and valuable expertise that makes this collaboration particularly well-suited for small molecule drug discovery targeting coronaviruses. Our goal is to identify unique and differentiated pan-coronavirus assets targeting the main coronavirus protease which, when combined with assets arising from our internal nucleoside program targeting the SARS-CoV-2 nsp12 viral polymerase, could deliver a much-needed all-oral antiviral treatment for SARS-CoV-2 and any potential future coronavirus outbreaks.”

“We are delighted of this joint discovery research collaboration with Arbutus and X-Chem, which has the potential to identify unique small molecule treatment options for COVID-19 and other possible coronavirus-related respiratory diseases,” said Dr. Torsten Neuefeind, Proteros’ CEO. “The complementary strengths of all parties gives us a strong position to potentially inhibit a key enzyme with a central role in the viral life cycle in a specific and effective manner.”

“The discovery and development of novel drugs to combat infections caused by coronavirus is an incredibly important and challenging task,” added Matt Clark, PhD, Chief Executive Officer of X-Chem. “We are exhilarated to join forces with industry leaders Arbutus and Proteros in this effort and bring our drug discovery expertise to this important area of antiviral research.”

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