Pardes Goes from Stealth to SPAC in Less than Two Years with COVID-19 Pill


The COVID-19 pandemic has led to faster R&D, faster approvals, faster science than ever before. It’s even leading to faster company development. 

This week early-stage biotech Pardes Biosciences goes from stealth mode to SPAC announcement. Launched in February 2020, the company is developing an oral antiviral drug to "put an end to the COVID-19 pandemic and prevent the next one.” 

Merging with FS Development Corp II, a special purpose acquisition company from Foresite Capital, the combined company will come out with around $276 million in total proceeds. The deal is backed by big names like Gilead Sciences, the company who snagged the first FDA approval for its COVID-19 treatment. 

Expected to close in October, Pardes will keep its name and CEO, co-founder Uri Lopatin, MD, in the merger.  

At this point in the pandemic, it may feel like continuing to push more drugs through clinical trials as vaccinations are becoming widely available. But scientists don’t believe this pandemic will be a one and done. There are more pre-emergent coronaviruses that can cross the species barrier. 

“COVID-19 has been a global medical catastrophe. Over the past year we have been focused on bringing forward PBI-0451, a viral protease inhibitor that we are developing to be a potential oral therapy for SARS-CoV-2 infections,” said CEO Lopatin. 

Pardes’ drug candidate PBI-0451 is designed to inhibit the essential virus protein of SARS-CoV-2. This main protease is “highly conserved” across all coronaviruses – SARS, MERS, etc. - and current emerging variants. PBI-0451 has gone from concept to drug candidate in less than nine months.  

Proteases are key to viral replication. SARS-CoV-2's main protease isn’t found in humans, so blocking it is less likely to cause negative effects on recipients. 

“The emergence of novel variants of increasing pathogenicity, such as the Delta variant, reinforces the need for new therapies that can be easily and rapidly deployed globally," said Jim Tananbaum, M.D., founder and CEO of Foresite Capital. 

Lopatin believes that oral antivirals will play an important role in ending this pandemic as well as preventing the next one. An oral drug increases accessibility and, with the potential to administer from home, can also help keep hospitals from overcrowding. 

Funds from this merger will give Pardes the capital it needs to take PBI-0451 onto clinical trials, expected to begin later this year. Also in the pipeline is a second-generation coronavirus drug, treatments for other, non-coronavirus infections and programs for inflammation and oncology, currently in the discovery stage. 

COVID-19 mRNA vaccine-maker Pfizer is also developing an oral antiviral, protease inhibitor for COVID-19. Targeting a protease called SARS-CoV-2 3CL, Pfizer’s Phase I trial was launched in late March. 

“We have designed PF-07321332 as a potential oral therapy that could be prescribed at the first sign of infection, without requiring that patients are hospitalized or in critical care,” said Pfizer’s Chief Scientific Officer and President of Worldwide Research, Development and Medical, Mikael Dolsten, MD, PhD., in a statement.   

Protease inhibitors have already been approved for the treatment of HIV and hepatitis C.  

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