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Altimmune leveraging novel intranasal technology in the race against coronavirus

05 Mar Altimmune leveraging novel intranasal technology in the race against coronavirus

Altimmune Inc (NASDAQ: ALT), a clinical stage biotechnology Company developing immunotherapies for unmet medical needs, announced that the Company has completed designing and synthesis of a novel single-dose, intranasal vaccine to protect against COVID-19, developed using its proprietary intranasal vaccine technology.

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The intranasal vaccine uses the same technology underlying its proprietary NasoVAX, a recombinant intranasal vaccine that can stimulate a comprehensive humoral, mucosal and cellular immune response. In addition, the Company is also developing NasoShield, a highly differentiated intranasal Anthrax Vaccine that only needs a single dose and can be self-administered, eliminating the need for an injection. Furthermore its NasoVAX intended for tackling seasonal influenza, offers improvement over conventional vaccines, such as recombinant cell production, long-lasting antibody response, a strong T cell and mucosal immunity and enhanced tissue-resident protection.

Vipin K. Garg, Ph.D., President and Chief Executive Officer of Altimmune, commented

“We believe that our intranasal vaccine technology is especially well suited to provide systemic protection against respiratory infections that affect the upper and lower airways and can therefore be a useful tool in preventing further spread of COVID-19. As such, we are actively engaged in discussions with a number of potential partners.”

Altimmune Inc (NASDAQ: ALT)

Market Cap: $42.37M; Current Share Price: 2.85 USDChart
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According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Coronovirus (CoV) is a family of viruses that cause illnesses ranging from common cold to lethal diseases such as the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV), Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV) and a new strain of CoV named, novel coronavirus (nCoV). The virus is Zoonotic as they are transmitted from animals to humans, with there being many known strains that have not yet infected humans. The infection manifests in the form of respiratory symptoms, cough, fever, shortness of breath and can take the form of pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.

WHO had identified a new type of coronavirus, namely 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in China in early January 2020, which has so far infected 91,000 cases globally, out of which 80,000 are in China alone. The death toll in China was an estimated 3,000, while the global fatalities were 160 as per a statement from WHO. The disease which originated from the Chinese city of Wuhan, has spread to other countries with reported outbreaks in South Korea, Japan, Italy, Iran and U.S. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are 130 known cases across 13 states and 9 people have died so far in the U.S alone.

The WHO has declared the Coronavirus outbreak as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) as more cases are reported around the world as the virus continues to spread beyond Wuhan, China. The notice allows members of the United Nations to take preemptive measures to contain the spread of the virus, including measures such as sealing borders, cancelling flights, proactively screen and quarantine suspected cases etc. Hong Kong has declared the highest level of citywide emergency, while China has cancelled its Chinese New Year Celebrations, declared school breaks and placed travel restriction in order to curb the spread of the disease.

There is no definite cure for treatment or eradication of CoV, with treatment being limited to alleviation of symptoms, and providing support and care to patients. Scientists have been able to sequence the virus genetic code; spurring organizations around the world into action, with the researchers at the US National Institutes of Health are already working on a therapeutic. Organizations like CEPI are supporting initiatives to develop a vaccine by proving funding support.

Altimmune is developing immune modulating therapies for a range of medical conditions such as NASH, Chronic Hepatitis, Cancer and intranasal vaccines. The Company is working on  a peptide-based dual GLP-1/glucagon receptor agonist,ALT-801, for the treatment of NASH, which is currently undergoing phase I clinical trials and is likely to advance into Phase I development in 2020.

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The Company is also developing a candidate that is capable of providing CD4+ and CD8+ T-cell responses against HBV genotypes, a unique approach from conventional treatment solutions for HBV. ALT-702, a tumor immunosuppressant that has a highly potent and selective dual TLR7/8 agonist combined with the Company’s depot-forming technology is its lead candidate for solid tumors.

Altimmune’s Intranasal Vaccine pipeline is headed by NasoShield, a vaccine intended to protect against anthrax, which offers a single-dose, convenient and simpler alternative to existing vaccines. The vaccine also offers excellent stability even at ambient room temperature, adding to its value. The candidate is being developed with support from the U.S. Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, (“BARDA”) for post-exposure prophylaxis against anthrax following exposure to aerosolized B. anthracis spores, as per the Company

NasoVAX, its intranasal flu vaccine, has been evaluated in a Phase 2a trial, which showed that it is well-tolerated and achieved 100 percent seroprotection.

Risk Assessment

  • A lot of vaccine companies are jumping onto the bandwagon to develop a vaccine for coronavirus; however Altimmune’s intranasal delivery technology, which offers the flexibility of self-administration and one-time dosage, could act as a potential differentiator from other competitors. Companies are racing against time to develop a vaccine first, which translates to stiff competition and need for speed and efficiency.
  • The Company is developing a diverse pipeline with potential candidates for treatment of areas with large unmet medical needs such as NASH and Hepatitis. Altimmune will have a series of catalysts in 2020, with plans to file for an IND for ALT-801 and HepTcell and initiate a Phase 1b trial of NasoShield in Q1, 2020.
  • Altimmune has built a robust intellectual property rights portfolio offering protection to the candidates in its pipeline including ALT-801, HepTcell, Alt-702, NasoShield and NasoVAX, enjoying significant remaining patent term in all areas. This adds considerable value to the portfolio and helps stave off competition until the Company gains a foothold in these markets.
  • The Company had over $39 million in cash and investments as of September 30, 2019, which it believes is sufficient to fund its clinical pipeline, run its operations and meet key milestones. The Company is also the recipient of a total $133.7 million grant from BARDA, if all options in the contact are exercised, for its NasoShield product and is seeking more such meaningful partnerships for the other candidates in its pipeline.
  • Clinical Trials are fraught with risk and uncertainty. However the company has a diverse pipeline and adequate funds, which will mitigate its risks and hold it in good stead.
  • Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.

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