USA —Pfizer Inc and Clear Creek Bio Inc have partnered to identify a potential drug candidate and develop a new class of oral treatment against COVID-19, as Pfizer seeks to expand its anti-infective pipeline.

Pfizer already has a COVID antiviral pill called Paxlovid, which is expected to generate US$22 billion in revenue this year.

Pfizer has made a number of acquisitions to diversify its portfolio. This year, it announced the acquisitions of Biohaven Pharmaceutical Holding Co and Global Blood Therapeutics for US$11.6 billion and US$5.4 billion, respectively.

Pfizer has also announced the formation of a joint venture with Roivant Sciences to develop an experimental bowel disease treatment.

The pharmaceutical giant will pay an undisclosed sum upfront as well as additional milestone payments and royalties on future product sales under the terms of the agreement with Clear Creek Bio.

SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, has two essential proteases, the main protease (Mpro) and the papain-like protease (PLpro), both required to fully process the viral polyprotein and assemble a functional replicase complex.

Under the terms of the agreement, the two companies will work together to identify a PLpro candidate to progress into the clinic, at which time Pfizer will be solely responsible for further development and commercialization activities.

In addition to its critical role in viral replication, the PLpro also contributes to dysregulation of host innate immunity and immune evasion.

The partnership comes has happened at a time when Pfizer is requesting FDA approval for its bivalent respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) vaccine candidate. The company plans to seek approval before the end of the fiscal year.

RSV is a respiratory virus, and while its cold-like symptoms are usually mild, it can occasionally cause a more serious illness in children and the elderly.

The vaccine, intended for pregnant women, is intended to pass immunity on to the child, who will retain it after birth.

The vaccine demonstrated nearly 82% efficacy against severe RSV in infants from birth to the first 90 days of life in the clinical trial.

Following that, the vaccine demonstrated a still-high efficacy of 69.4% during the first six months of life.

Pfizer’s RSV vaccine candidate, if approved, could be the first maternal vaccine available to help prevent RSV in young infants. Pfizer is currently the only company developing an RSV vaccine for both infants and older adults.

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