RedHill Biopharma has reported results from a new preclinical study where its drug, opaganib (ABC294640), demonstrated efficacy in substantially reducing renal fibrosis in a unilateral ureteral obstruction (UUO)-induced renal interstitial fibrosis model.

A novel chemical entity, opaganib is an orally administered sphingosine kinase-2 (SK2) selective inhibitor with anti-inflammatory and antiviral activity.

Estimates show that more than 20% of hospitalised Covid-19 patients suffer acute renal failure, Redhill noted.

Kidney fibrosis often causes loss of tissue function and leads to organ failure, with an increased mortality rate. The company added that novel therapeutic small molecules to reduce fibrosis are urgently required.

The in vivo efficacy study was aimed at establishing the impact of opaganib on kidney inflammation and fibrosis in a UUO model with data demonstrating the drug’s ability to reduce renal fibrosis.

RedHill Biopharma R&D senior vice-president Reza Fathi said: “This new preclinical data, demonstrating opaganib’s ability to decrease kidney fibrosis, along with its observed anti-inflammatory properties, positions opaganib as a potential novel therapy for the millions of patients suffering from chronic kidney disease and potentially extends to Covid-19 patients with acute kidney injury (AKI) who are at risk of developing renal fibrosis.

“Kidney injury and its associated progression to fibrosis is an important facet in both the acute phase of Covid-19 and in long Covid.”

A common outcome of chronic kidney disease, renal fibrosis is characterised by an excessive build-up and sedimentation of extracellular matrix components and fibrous tissue.

Renal fibrosis could eventually result in end-stage renal failure, which needs dialysis or kidney transplantation.

In June 2021, RedHill reported initial findings from a preclinical study, revealing opaganib’s ability to block Covid-19 variants of concern.

During the same month, RedHill concluded enrolment in the global Phase II/III study of opaganib in hospitalised patients with severe Covid-19 pneumonia.