Gilead nixes Matinas oral COVID-19 antiviral to focus on late-phase internal program

Gilead Sciences has pulled out of an oral COVID-19 antiviral project, telling Matinas BioPharma that it is focusing on its own approach at the expense of its collaborator’s lipid nanocrystal (LNC) technology platform.

Matinas began working with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) to develop oral formulations of Gilead’s remdesivir in December 2020. The program was built in the belief that the LNC platform could enable oral bioavailability and efficient intracellular delivery. Scientists at the NIAID and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill put the formulation through two sets of in vivo tests.

Talking to investors in August, Matinas CEO Jerome Jabbour said his company had Gilead’s attention and had “something on the calendar to re-engage” with the big biotech now it had the full in vivo data set. The data failed to persuade Gilead to throw its weight behind the LNC candidate. 

Instead, the company told Matinas that it is focusing on its internal oral nucleoside prodrug version of remdesivir. Gilead has already started a phase 3 clinical trial of its oral COVID-19 candidate in high-risk patients outside of the U.S. and plans to kick off a standard-risk study in the first quarter of 2023. The situation means Matinas has gained early validation data but no ongoing relationship from the project.

Matinas is closing in on the final year of its cash runway, with the $28.8 million it had at the end of last year forecast to fund operations into the second quarter of 2024. The biotech has identified a chance to reduce spending by securing external funding for a late-phase program.

In November, Matinas outlined plans to take its antifungal candidate MAT2203 into a phase 3 clinical trial in the first quarter of 2023. Later that month, the U.S. Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) put out a call to private sector companies that have broad-spectrum, next-generation antifungal treatments of high-priority fungal infections in late-stage development.

Matinas thinks MAT2203, an oral formulation of the antifungal medication amphotericin B, is a “strong candidate” for funding, leading it to pause the start of its phase 3 cryptococcal meningitis clinical trial and schedule a meeting with BARDA for the first quarter of 2023. The biotech has included all MAT2203 development costs in its proposal.