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Assembly Biosciences

A Carmel-based company believes it’s within months of having a potential cure for the hepatitis B virus in clinical trials—potentially giving millions of people in the U.S. a treatment for a virus that can be deadly. Assembly Biosciences, Inc. says the impact could be even greater internationally. The virus, which is the leading cause of chronic liver disease and liver transplants, infects up to 300 million people worldwide, with 90 million of those patients in China alone.

“There’s a huge population of chronically-infected patients; these patients go on to many types of disorders that cause somewhere between 500,000 and one million deaths each year,” says Assembly Biosciences President and Chief Executive Officer Derek Small. “It’s a very serious disease.”

Small says most scientists have attempted to cure the disease by targeting the virus, which exists in the liver. However, Assembly Biosciences says it uses a different strategy by targeting an HBV core protein within the virus’ DNA; the unique approach is based on discoveries made by Indiana University Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry Professor Dr. Adam Zlotnick.

“We have the ability to target HBV like nobody else has had to date,” says Small, “and now we have three different drugs in development for a combination to cure HBV.”

The company started in 2012 as Assembly Pharmaceuticals, and after collecting $1.5 million in seed funding, its leaders soon realized the resources of a larger company would speed the pace of commercialization. In 2014, it merged with New York-based Ventrus Biosciences, a public firm that provided a $25 million cash infusion for the HBV platform, and a new company was born: Assembly Biosciences.

The merger also meant Assembly Biosciences now had two lead platforms: the HBV technology, as well as a microbiome therapeutic, which was Ventrus’ area of expertise. While Small acknowledges it’s unusual for a single company to have two unrelated platforms, he says it’s been good for business.

“When we merged the company two years ago, both [platforms] were very pre-clinical. Now, both will be going into the clinic within the next few months,” says Small. “We believe by end of year, the HBV [drug] will be in the clinic, and shortly after, we’ll have the microbiome platform in the clinic as well.”
7 Responses
Avatar universal
What a great update. Happy to know these developments. Keeping fingers crossed to witness the success.
Avatar universal
Thanks Airquake for bringing this yet another encouraging news in the fight against hbv. I hope this "good news" is not another effort to prope up the company's stock market shares.
As far as i know there is no protien inside DNA, hence one cannot target a "core protien within the hbv DNA"; it should be targeting the core-protien gene.
Avatar universal
Cool, I hope this becomes successful
Avatar universal
Dr Adam Zlotnick is a leading authority on HBV core protein and core capsid. However, Assembly has yet to select a potential drug candidate for development. Now it seems to have three? They will only be in Phase 1 clinical trials, at best.
There are many other capsid inhibitors already in the pipeline:
two from Johnson & Johnson(after taking one from Novira), one from China WuXiAppTec, and one from Arbutus. Another one, GLS4 from China, had no news since its much heralded Phase 2 clinical trial.
Avatar universal
Time will tell, the website had voice recordings supporting this article that's why I included on this site.
Avatar universal
This is great news and close enough to home for me. Curious what side effects would be though. That's a big factor. If it's only in Phase I or II trials, then I'll have to wait.
Avatar universal
Three years ago we were told cure coming within 5 years & still this 5 year continuing with every new pharma making an ad for the cure.
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