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That’s something the company has considered, so it’s specifically aiming for targets that don’t last in the body more than a day or so. That means an Avila drug could be given once a day as a pill, do its job with tight binding and then have to be re-dosed the following day, he says.
The company’s lead candidate in development is for hepatitis C, the liver infection, and should be ready to enter clinical trials by the end of 2009, Mahanthappa says. Another candidate in animal testing, AVL-101, is designed to block the activity of excess B cells (a type of white blood cell) by hitting a target called BTK. This could accomplish something similar to what Genentech and Biogen Idec’s hit antibody drug, rituximab (Rituxan) does. The big difference would be that if Avila’s drug can be proven effective, against B-cell driven lymphomas and autoimmune diseases, the pill form would offer an alternative to rituximab, which is delivered intravenously.
Avila claims to have developed all its intellectual property around this technique in-house, and since it hasn’t been around long, it doesn’t have patents in hand yet. But Lynch said part of the reason they are starting to talk publicly about their work is the increasing confidence that their patent applications will be approved.
This, of course, is all about vision and dreams in the early days, and Avila knows it has lots to prove. I asked Lynch why he decided to join this company as opposed to any other startup biotech. He didn’t try to hold back on expectations. “This is a huge, huge opportunity that has not been exploited practically,” Lynch says. “To create a new class of small molecules, to be a part of that is exciting to me.”