Byline: Madeleine Brindley
THE first clinical trials on a new drug discovered by scientists at Cardiff University have begun.
The drug, know as INX-189, is c
It is estimated that 170m people worldwide - including up to 14,000 in Wales - have hepatitis C, which can lead to liver cancer, cirrhosis and death.
The virus is the leading cause of liver transplants in Western countries.
The current treatment for hepatitis C involves two drugs, ribavirin and interferon, which have to be given as an injection over the course of a year. But the side-effects can be severe and are one of the reasons why only 10% of patients complete the treatment. The new drug, INX-189, is taken orally and was first prepared at the Welsh School of Pharmacy in November 2008.
The school's scientists used technology developed by the university to augment another molecule which had previously failed in tests against hepatitis C. During the process they created a molecule which laboratory tests found killed 90% of the virus in very low concentrations, making it one of the most potent compounds of its kind to be developed to date.
Professor Chris McGuigan, of the Welsh School of Pharmacy and the academic lead on the project, said: "This is still a very early stage of the trials process.
"However, progress has been encouraging so far, going from the laboratory to human trials within 18 months.
"We believe that INX-189 offers the possibility of more potency against hepatitis, more rapid action in the liver, and fewer side-effects than existing treatments."
US pharmaceutical company Inhibitex, which owns the licence to INX-189 and has been working with the Cardiff team, has now started trials in healthy volunteers in the US to assess the compound's safety. …