Bemcentinib fast-tracked into COVID-19 trial

Lighthouse | 30 April 2020

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  • Bemcentinib is the first drug candidate selected to be studied in the UK’s ambitious ACCORD Phase II clinical trial initiative. This follows promising preclinical data from Professor Wendy Maury’s group at the University of Iowa suggesting bemcentinib could be effective in early COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus) infection. Similarly potent anti-viral activity was seen in preclinical models against several enveloped viruses (ie Ebola and Zika virus).
  • The ACCORD (ACcelerating COVID-19 Research & Development) study is a collaborative platform that has been assembled rapidly in response to the pandemic. It is funded by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), and is run within the UK’s NHS by the clinical research company IQVIA.
  • The Phase II trial is a multi-centre randomised study. Part 1 will involve 120 hospitalised COVID-19 patients with mild or non-ventilated severe disease, 60 of which will receive standard of care (SoC) only, with 60 also receiving bemcentinib as an add-on. It is due to start imminently, with first results expected within a few months. If positive, bemcentinib would transition into the Part 2 expansion, and ultimately a larger Phase III trial.
  • Bemcentinib is a highly selective inhibitor of AXL kinase activity. The AXL receptor is a member of the TAM (TYRO3, AXL, MER) receptor tyrosine kinase family, and has a role in mediating immune evasion, drug resistance, metastasis, and viral infection. Bemcentinib has a 250x and >1,000 greater binding affinity for AXL receptor than MER and TYRO. Clinical results show a clean safety profile in over 300 patients.
  • TAM receptors are engaged by many enveloped viruses (such as SARS) in order to attenuate the immune response. Bemcentinib appears to work by both blocking AXL-dependent viral entry into a cell (via apoptotic mimcry) by hindering virus attachment and entry into the target cells, as well as enhancing the anti-viral type I interferon response.

Trinity Delta view: The potential of the AXL receptor as an oncology target is being increasingly recognised and validated, and now, emerging preclinical data highlights its role in viral infection. BerGenBio is spearheading advances in AXL biology and its lead asset, bemcentinib, is the most advanced selective oral AXL inhibitor in development. Bemcentinib’s potential utility in treating viral infection was first explored following the SARS and Zika virus outbreaks. Its selection as the first programme in the UK’s flagship ACCORD study provides significant validation of BerGenBio’s development work, raising its global profile materially. Bemcentinib’s two-pronged mechanism of action suggests it has the potential to lower viral load and reduce the sequalae of COVID-19. If efficacy in early COVID infection is demonstrated, this, coupled to its oral administration, could mean bemcentinib has an ideal profile for use in the community setting (pre-hospitalisation), which has positive clinical and health economics repercussions. Our current BerGenBio valuation is NOK3.54bn ($339m) or NOK48.31/share, excluding any contribution for bemcentinib’s potential in treating COVID-19.


30 April 2020

Market CapNOK3.06bn
Primary exchangeOslo
Company CodeBGBIO
Corporate clientYes

Company description

BerGenBio is a clinical-stage, drug development company based in Bergen, Norway and Oxford, UK. It is developing innovative anti-cancer therapies that act on the promising Axl signalling pathway. The lead oncology compound, bemcentinib, is in a number of Phase II trials.


Lala Gregorek
+44 (0) 20 3637 5043

Franc Gregori
+44 (0) 20 3637 5041


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