Conversations and healthy debate about issues facing our industry and the health care system are critical to addressing some of today’s challenges and opportunities. The Catalyst welcomes guest contributors, including patients, stakeholders, innovators and others, to share their perspectives and point of view.
Today, we are pleased to welcome a guest post Michel Pairet, a member of the Board of Managing Directors in charge of Innovation at Boehringer Ingelheim and Clive R. Wood, Global Head of Discovery Research.
As the world grapples with the challenge of another potentially more deadly upsurge in COVID-19 infections, we at Boehringer Ingelheim, along with the rest of the global scientific community, are digging deep into our knowledge and pipeline to find new options to combat this disease. Every statistic has a human story associated with it and it is this, together with our scientists’ deep commitment to rapidly find effective treatments to fight this devastating disease, that compels us to do everything we can to help patients who are suffering and relieve pressure on health care systems around the world.
Searching for opportunities to help the most severely affected
In January, we began learning – along with the rest of the scientific world – about the pathology and course of COVID-19 infections. Our scientists have benefitted from the unprecedented spirit of global collaboration among the scientific community. And our own extensive experience in respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, combined with knowledge gathered through exploration of infectious disease therapy approaches, has allowed us to rapidly identify mechanisms that could be helpful in the fight against this global menace.
By March, and leaving no stone unturned, our scientists had identified a targeted therapeutic approach (from work in an unrelated disease area) with a mechanism found to play a potentially key role in the onset of one of the most severe hallmarks of COVID-19 – Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS). Given the potential value to patients and being, to the best of our knowledge, the only team to have a clinical-stage agent targeting this pathway, we knew we had to act. Now, just a few months on from those early days of research, BI 764198, an inhibitor of TRPC6, a receptor-operated cation channel, is entering a phase II clinical trial.
BI 764198 is a novel, first-in-class compound that could potentially tackle life-threatening complications of COVID-19. Our TRPC6 inhibitor has shown pre-clinically the potential to stop the influx of fluid into the lungs, which causes pulmonary edema and leads to ARDS. This represents a potentially important intervention for patients admitted to hospital with COVID-19 to stop their progression to, or reduce the severity of pulmonary edema, and reducing the need for intensive care treatment and/or supported ventilation.
This is the first phase in an accelerated clinical development program, which could see this potential new medicine begin phase 3 trials in a larger group of patients in early 2021 with the earliest approval expected later next year.
Addressing the challenge of life-threatening respiratory symptoms
Acute respiratory distress syndrome is a severe lung condition that occurs when fluid builds up in the small air sacs (alveoli) in the lungs. The fluid stops the lungs from filling with air, which means less oxygen reaches the bloodstream and deprives the essential organs of the oxygen they need to function.
With no currently approved treatments available for ARDS, there is significant unmet patient need. One third of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 develop acute respiratory distress syndrome.1 These are some of the most severely ill patients in hospital, many of whom will require intensive care treatment and supported ventilation.
Standing together with the scientific community to do all we can
We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our colleagues in the biomedical community around the world who are doing everything they can and using all their expertise to bring forward new treatments and vaccines to help patients who are suffering from the effects of COVID-19. And while the approval of a safe and effective vaccine will be a pivotal moment in our fight against COVID, pushing back the pandemic through the widespread immunization of the global population will take time.
Alongside the rest of the world, we hope that every clinical trial is a success, providing vaccines and treatments that will rid the world of this virus or lessen its burden on those infected. In the meantime, we will continue to strive to be first4patients working around the clock until the fight against COVID-19 is won.
1Tzotzos et al. Critical Care (2020) 24:516