Chimerix withdrawing from Ebola clinical trials

Durham biopharmaceutical company Chimerix – whose experimental anti-viral brincidofovir was seen as a lead candidate against Ebola Virus Disease – said Monday it is withdrawing from all global clinical trials of its drug for Ebola as the deadly epidemic is running its course and subsiding.

The company said that “only a handful of patients” had enrolled in a major clinical trial announced in November. That trial involved the University of Oxford, Doctors Without Borders, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the International Severe Acute Respiratory and Emerging Infection Consortium.

Chimerix said it will resume its long-term focus on developing brincidofovir to fight infections of cytomegalovirus and adenovirus in transplant patients and patients with compromised immune systems. It’s also being tested for use against the spread of smallpox through a bioterror attack.

Chimerix is one of several companies with a Triangle presence that is working on potential vaccines and treatments for Ebola. Others include Durham-based BioCryst Pharmaceuticals and GlaxoSmithKline.

The Ebola epidemic has caused more than 8,800 deaths, mostly in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The United States has had eight cases, including one death of a Liberian national.

For the first time since June 29, fewer than 100 new cases have been confirmed in one week in the three West African countries where the epidemic broke out, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

The virus-fighting capability of the drug put Chimerix on the map in the global fight against the Ebola virus.

In October, Chimerix received federal fast-track approval to test brincidofovir on Ebola-infected patients in Europe and the United States. It had previously been available on a case-by-case basis to patients whose doctors submitted emergency requests to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Brincidofovir had been tested on more than 1,000 people between 2009 and 2012, largely in compassionate-use programs. The drug doesn’t have toxic side effects and comes in tablet form that can be stored at room temperature without refrigeration.

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