Chimerix to test anti-viral against Ebola in West Africa

Durham drug maker Chimerix said Thursday it will test its experimental antiviral on Ebola-stricken patients in west Africa in a clinical trial to be run by Oxford University.

The drug, brincidofovir, is one of two to be tested in the clinical trial in the epicenter of the global Ebola virus epidemic that has claimed more than 5,000 lives this year. The announcement marks another step forward for brincidofovir, which some consider a lead candidate in the global fight against the deadly viral infection.

Chimerix said the trial will be funded by the Wellcome Trust and led by Oxford University on behalf of the International Severe Acute Respiratory and Emerging Infection Consortium, or ISARIC, with operating support from Médicins Sans Frontières, the organization known in English as Doctors Without Borders.

The west Africa drug trials will require approval from local health ministers and ethical boards, Chimerix said.

Last month the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized the study of brincidofovir on Ebola patients in a trial that would be focused in Europe and the United States.

Brincidofovir was developed against small pox, adenovirus and cytomegalovirus, and only recently emerged as a potential treatment against Ebola, which has exhibited a 70 percent mortality rate in west African countries.

The Chimerix drug does not have toxic side-effects like other potent antivirals. Brincidofovir comes in tablet form and can be stored at room temperature without refrigeration.

Brincidofovir has an established safety record. More than 1,000 people have taken the drug between 2009 and 2012, largely in compassionate use programs.

Additionally, bricindofovir is backed by the federal government’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority. BARDA is funding $22.3 million in research to develop the Chimerix drug as a weapon against the threat of smallpox dispersed through a bioterror attack or accidental release.

The experimental drug is not expected to be approved for general public use until 2016 at the earliest.

Chimerix shares were at $33.54, down 34 cents in midday trading. The stock is up 122 percent this year.