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Australia-first trial for viral conjunctivitis treatment commences

06/02/2019By Callum Glennen
An Australian trial for an adenoviral conjunctivitis treatment has begun, in what could result in a world-first treatment for the condition.

Okogen, the US based biotech company behind the development of the drug, claims this is a potential first treatment for the disease. While bacterial conjunctivitis is typically treated with antibiotics, this is not effective for treating the viral form of the disease.

The ‘RUBY’ Phase II clinical trial will test the safety and effectiveness of Okogen’s lead candidate in the study, OKG-0301. Investigators will also be assessing the drug’s potential to diminish the longer-term complications of adenoviral conjunctivitis, which can impact vision and cause scarring of the ocular surface.

Speaking to Insight, Dr Brian M Strem CEO of Okogen said Australia was chosen as the location for the trial due to the favourable regulatory framework and tax incentives available.

“You combine the timeline savings, that Australia has first-world medicine by any and every stretch, that the respect that comes with any work out of Australia is on par with any country in the world, if not better, and then you add on the R&D tax incentives; it just became in incredibly attractive place,” Strem said.

“The respect that comes with any work out of Australia is on par with any country in the world, if not better.”
Brian M Strem, Okogen

The trials will take place across seven clinical sites in Sydney, Melbourne, Albury, Adelaide, Perth and Hobart, and 219 adult patients with acute adenoviral conjunctivitis will be part of the study

Professor Stephanie Watson of the Save Sight Institute and The University of Sydney is the principle investigator on the trials.

“I have been impressed with the consistent results of OKG-0301 in laboratory models of adenoviral conjunctivitis,” Watson said.

“My fellow investigators and I are excited to have the opportunity to evaluate how this novel antiviral therapy may be able to help patients suffering from this very common condition.”

Strem said the drug has the potential to hold other ophthalmic applications, in particular any that relating to other viral infections of the eye. OKG-0301 has also shows anti-inflammatory qualities. 

Strem also said he expects the trials to be completed by the end of 2019, with Phase III trails expected to commence in mid to late 2020 if there are no complications. From there, the drug could potentially be available on shelves in 2024.

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Adenoviral conjunctivitis, also commonly known as viral conjunctivitis, affects up to 25 million people worldwide every year, and is the number one cause of eye infections internationally. The disease is also highly contagious, with localised outbreaks of the disease a high risk.

Okogen, founded in 2015, is a US based clinical-stage, specialty biotech company focused on developing therapeutics to help patients with ocular diseases. The company was the recipient of a $13 million investment by Brandon Capital’s Medical Research Commercialisation Fund in 2017, and established a subsidiary in NSW in preparation for the trial.


More reading:

$13m investment to progress Australian ophthalmic drug trial


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