Dental Tribune India

Ligandal, the maker of SARS BLOCK ‘antidote-vaccine’ looking for investors & strategic partnerships

By Rajeev Chitguppi, Dental Tribune South Asia
December 12, 2020

Ligandal is a regenerative-medicine and pandemic-defence biotechnology company, based in San Francisco, California. Andre Watson, the CEO of Ligandal, who features on the "Forbes 30 under 30 Healthcare for 2021" list for creating "SARS-BLOCK"- engineered proteins that prevent SARS-CoV-2 from infecting cells, is looking forward to investments, financing, strategic partnerships, and growth in the coming weeks.

Ligandal is a California based genetic medicine company that uses nanotechnology to develop targeted and personalised therapies. The team focuses on creating tailored gene therapies using non-viral, cell-specifically-targeted nanotechnology. Ligandal uses supercomputing and AI to develop next-generation medicine, with a decade of experience in developing peptide-based technologies for gene therapy, gene editing, regenerative medicine, immunotherapy, and advanced antidote-vaccine technologies.

Ligandal has developed SARS-BLOCK™, a peptide "antidote-vaccine" against the SARS-CoV-2 in the stressful phase of the Covid-19 pandemic. Andre Watson, the CEO of Ligandal, recently published a paper on this novel coronavirus pandemic defence technology with UCSF and the Dr Robert Stroud Lab.

Link: Watson et al., Peptide Antidotes to SARS-CoV-2

Ligandal has gained Federally-cleared contractor status, which gives them the much-needed clearance to engage in National Security sensitive work with the military and government of the United States (See: FedLinks Profile).

Ligandal is currently focused on developing an antidote-vaccine for the COVID19 pandemic (SARS-BLOCK™), which is moving through studies with the National Institutes of Health and the National Institutes for Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIH/NIAID), demonstrating positive progress and escalation through animal studies.

Ligandal is in the process of closing its Series A financing and discussing with leading investors.

Ligandal welcomes and is looking for financial partnerships to bring SARS-BLOCK™ to market quickly. Their current manufacturing partners in France and India are primed for larger-scale synthesis. Ligandal is aiming to go from gram-scale to kilogram scale manufacturing of its product to distribute globally.

Ligandal's progress with the NIH/NIAID has demonstrated >90% SARS-BLOCK efficacy in human cells. Their studies with the Dr Robert Stroud lab at UCSF have shown>95% efficacy in ACE2 (SARS-CoV-2 viral entry receptor) expressing cells, which only means that SARS-BLOCK™ prevents viral entry into human cells with >90-95% efficacy and some formulations show nearly complete ~100% inhibition.

Additionally, SARS-BLOCK™ binds to neutralizing antibodies, which lends itself to the efficacy with immune responses against the virus, both as a prophylactic or therapeutic (given before or after infection, respectively). Unlike other approaches, SARS-BLOCK™ is engineered to enhance the immune response rather than suppressing it. When an antibody cocktail is administered to a patient, the antibodies only remain in the body for about 1-2 months. After this period, the patient does not generate their own antibodies, which results in a baseline proclivity for reinfection versus a person who clears the virus and develops their own adaptive immune response (which is driven by T cells and B cells making T cell receptors and antibodies, respectively).

SARS-BLOCK™ is designed to teach both T cells and B cells to generate their own immune response against a hyper-specific portion of the virus, thereby leading to longer-lasting adaptive immunity than a viral infection on its own, or many other therapeutics in development today.

(Details: It is important to note that this virus evades many components of immune recognition, and there are concerns of several phenomena, including antibody-dependent enhancement (ADE), vaccine-associated enhanced respiratory disease (VAERD), and hyper-inflammatory immune responses via macrophages in both vaccinated and non-vaccinated individuals. This is best exemplified by convalescent plasma therapies and evidence thereof indicating that severe patient convalescent plasma administered to mild individuals worsens disease severity. This means that it's essential to have the right balance of antibodies, not merely a binary antibody response. In summary, SARS-BLOCK™ is an immune-enhancing therapy designed to elicit a specific antibody response rather than an imbalanced one. For more technical details, please review the paper: Peptide Antidotes to SARS-CoV-2.)

Ligandal's next steps will be to file an emergency IND with one or more clinics targeting mild, moderate, severe and critical patients with SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19). Concomitant to that, Ligandal is exploring international routes for faster clinical development as well as the potential to sell a version of SARS-BLOCK™ as a supplement and/or over-the-counter medication for asymptomatic and healthy patients. Due to the peptide nature of the compound, and many other existing peptides on the market being sold as supplements looks like this is a promising route to distribute this product quickly. Also, given the mutational drift of the virus, we may be able to iterate through the supplement version faster than the variant going through clinical trials. The FDA has paths for taking small modifications to the existing drugs or compounds, including nanoscale delivery systems, via the biosimilars and biobeners regulatory framework. Thus, once SARS-BLOCK™ demonstrates a combined Phase I/II and/or Phase II/III results, Ligandal will be in a position to tailor the antiviral defence technology rapidly to further strains of SARS CoV-2, as well as existing and novel viruses well beyond the COVID19 pandemic.

International pharma and government partners have shown interest in participating in both the Series A capital raise, as well as in the formation of Joint Ventures/spinouts with specific countries of focus. Ligandal is also exploring ways to distribute SARS-BLOCK within military branches.

 

Andre Watson, Chairman & CEO, Ligandal
Link: Forbes 30 under 30 in Healthcare (2021) recognition for Andre Watson

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