Enanta Pharmaceuticals joins the hunt for coronavirus treatments

Enanta Pharmaceuticals CEO Jay Luly
Enanta will launch a discovery program to seek out new drugs to treat COVID-19, and it will plumb its library of antiviral compounds for candidates that show promise against the disease. (Enanta Pharmaceuticals)

The hunt is on for a treatment against COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus circulating the globe. Some players, like Sanofi and Regeneron, are repurposing older drugs, while others are developing brand-new treatments. Liver specialist Enanta Pharmaceuticals is joining the latter camp.

Enanta will launch a discovery program to seek out new drugs to treat COVID-19, and it will plumb its library of antiviral compounds for candidates that show promise against the disease, the company said in a statement.

“Based on our proven track record in virology and our capabilities in respiratory diseases, we believe our core competencies position us well to discover a potential treatment for COVID-19,” said Enanta CEO Jay Luly, Ph.D., in the statement. “Our decision to initiate a program for COVID-19 is a natural evolution of our work and mission.”

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The Massachusetts-based biotech partnered with AbbVie on two antivirals that eventually became part of the Big Pharma’s hepatitis C treatments Viekira Pak and its follow-up Mavyret. Enanta’s pipeline includes programs in multiple liver diseases: hepatitis B, nonalcoholic steatohepatitis and primary biliary cholangitis. It’s also working on treatments against the respiratory syncytial virus and human metapneumovirus.

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Enanta joins a group of biotech companies working on new treatments for COVID-19 including Vir Biotechnology, which identified two monoclonal antibodies that bind to the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2. The company is digging into the ability of those antibodies—or other antibodies—to ward off or treat COVID-19. Takeda and Israel-based Kamada are both working on treatments based on plasma from patients who have recovered from the disease.

AbbVie is working with health authorities to test its HIV medicine Kaletra/Aluvia in patients who have contracted the coronavirus, while Sanofi and Regeneron are preparing to pit rheumatoid arthritis med Kevzara against COVID-19. And Gilead’s remdesivir, which fell short against Ebola, is showing promise against the coronavirus, with a Chinese firm mass-producing copies of the antiviral.