KeViRx is an early stage drug discovery company spun out of the UVA Department of Pharmacology by Elizabeth Sharlow and John Lazo and is located in Charlottesville. KeViRx was just awarded its second National Institutes of Health R43 Phase 1 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant. This grant (HL158409) is entitled “A PTP4A3 inhibitor for SARS-CoV-2-mediated acute lung injury”. The Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) is responsible for the current COVID-19 pandemic. Many COVID-19 patients develop acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and subsequently septic shock and multi-organ failure; about half will die. There are currently no FDA-approved therapeutics that treat the pulmonary damage and ARDS associated with COVID-19.
KeViRx focuses on the molecular target, PTP4A3 phosphatase, which appears to control pulmonary cellular permeability changes after SARS-CoV infection and cytokine release. KVX-053 is a novel, potent, reversible, selective, allosteric inhibitor of PTP4A3 phosphatase with excellent in vivo pharmacokinetic and drug-like properties. The new SBIR grant has three proof-of-concept tasks: (1) Determine the ability of KVX-053 to block SARS-CoV-2 Spike 1 protein-mediated loss of pulmonary endothelial barrier function and cytokine release in vitro; (2) Determine the ability of KVX-053 to block SARS-CoV-2 Spike 1 protein-mediated loss of pulmonary alveolar epithelial barrier function and cytokine release in vitro; and (3) Determine the ability of KVX-053 to inhibit the acute lung injury in mice induced by the SARS-CoV-2 Spike protein. Successful completion of these tasks should enable KeViRx to continue developing an entirely new therapeutic strategy that could prevent or mitigate the initial pulmonary damage and halt the lethal cytokine storm caused by SARS-CoV-2 and other viruses including influenza.
This project is in collaboration with Professor John D. Catravas of Old Dominion University. More information about KeViRx, which also is seeking to hire a new laboratory technician, can be found on their website: www.kevirx.com.
VaDDC Executive Committee Members: John Lazo, Elizabeth Sharlow, and John Catravas