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Atriva Therapeutics strengthens advisory board with Piet Wigerinck

  • 6 min read
  • Dr. Piet Wigerinck, former CSO of Galapagos, to strengthen Atriva’s advisory board, bringing vast experience in late-stage pharmaceutical development
  • Frans van Dalen, Pharm D., representative of Atriva’s lead investor Meneldor, continues support for Atriva on the scientific board
  • Atriva Therapeutics is running a Phase II clinical trial to evaluate its lead candidate zapnometinib in hospitalized patients with moderate to severe COVID-19
  • Zapnometinib is a small molecule with a beneficial dual antiviral and immunomodulatory effect under development against respiratory viral infections

Tübingen and Frankfurt, Germany, December 02, 2021 – Atriva Therapeutics GmbH, a biopharmaceutical company pioneering the development of host-targeting antiviral therapies, today announced changes in its advisory board and its scientific board: Effective December 1, Piet Wigerinck, Ph.D., former Chief Scientific Officer (CSO) of the Belgian biotech company Galapagos, will join Atriva’s advisory board on behalf of lead investor Meneldor. Frans van Dalen, Pharm. D., founding partner and representative of Meneldor in Atriva’s advisory board until now, will take a seat on the scientific board to continue his support for Atriva.

Atriva Therapeutics is actively recruiting for their Phase II trial RESPIRE1 to test their small molecule zapnometinib (ATR-002) in the treatment of moderate to severe COVID-19 in hospitalized patients. The study is currently running at 27 study centers in Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, India, Romania and other countries. German-based centers include Charité in Berlin and Frankfurt University Hospital. Zapnometinib is a first-in-class host-cell targeting therapy to treat respiratory viral infections caused by RNA viruses, including COVID-19 and influenza.

“I would like to take the opportunity to thank Frans for his long-standing support. I am grateful that he will continue to contribute his scientific expertise to our development plans for zapnometinib,” said Dr. Rainer Lichtenberger, CEO of Atriva Therapeutics. “We are delighted to welcome Piet to our advisory board and are looking forward to benefiting from his vast experience in late-stage pharmaceutical development. We highly appreciate Meneldor strengthening its support at this important time when we advance our lead candidate zapnometinib through late-stage clinical development in respiratory viral infections with a very high unmet medical need.”

Paul Lelieveld, Ir., founding partner of Meneldor, said: “We warmly welcome Piet as a representative of Meneldor on the advisory board of Atriva. With the ongoing clinical development, we aimed to strengthen the expertise in late-stage pharmaceutical development while maintaining our scientific advice and cooperation at the same time.”

Dr. Piet Wigerinck said: “I am very pleased to join the Atriva Therapeutics board at an exciting moment in its history. In 2022, we expect the first clinical data from RESPIRE, a Phase II study in COVID-19 patients. By blocking an essential host enzyme, zapnometinib should be active on known and emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants, including Omikron. I look forward to helping Atriva Therapeutics develop further drugs that block host targets in order to stop viruses with pandemic potential.” Dr. Piet Wigerinck has an excellent track record in all phases of pharmaceutical development, including CMC. For more than 12 years, Piet was responsible for pharmaceutical development at Galapagos B.V., including nine years of heading its R&D activities as Chief Scientific Officer and three years as Senior Vice President Development. Previous career steps included Tibotec, Janssen Research Foundation and the Rega Instituut. Piet holds a Ph.D. in Medicinal Chemistry from the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven.

About zapnometinib’s mode of action with dual benefit

The Atriva lead product zapnometinib (pINN, currently known as ATR-002) is developed specifically to treat diseases such as influenza and COVID-19, caused by RNA viruses. Zapnometinib is a clinical stage MEK inhibitor drug candidate targeting the intracellular Raf/MEK/ERK signaling pathway. This pathway is central for replication of many RNA viruses, such as the influenza virus2, hantavirus2 or respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)2 and also coronaviruses2, thereof SARS-CoV-2. Zapnometinib inhibits the cellular MEK (MAPK/ERK kinase), blocking the formation of functional virus particles in the host cell, ultimately reducing the viral load in the body.3,4 The specific mode of action varies depending on the actual virus type. E.g., in influenza virus infected cells, MEK inhibition blocks the export of the viral genome protein complexes (ribonucleoprotein, RNP) from the nucleus to the cytoplasm.2

In addition, zapnometinib has the potential to modulate the immune response of the body, among others avoiding overshooting cytokine/chemokine response that can be caused by such viral infections. MEK inhibition can reduce the gene expression of some of the cytokines/chemokines involved, like TNF-α, IL-1ß, IP-10, IL-8, MCP-1 and MIP-1a,5,6 and thus mitigate the overactive inflammatory response in the lungs of patients who are severely ill with influenza or COVID‑19.7

About Atriva Therapeutics GmbH 

Atriva Therapeutics, founded in 2015, is a biopharmaceutical company that is pioneering the development of host-targeting antiviral therapies. It was set up by a team of leading scientists in viral research as well as proven industry experts. The company aims to develop a therapy platform to treat severe respiratory diseases induced by RNA viruses with a high unmet medical need, such as influenza and COVID-19. The Atriva lead product zapnometinib (INN, currently known as ATR-002) is a first-in-class, host-targeting agent that aims to inhibit viral replication and to favorably modulate the body’s immune response in such RNA viruses. Zapnometinib is under clinical development and has successfully completed a Phase I trial to demonstrate safety and tolerability in healthy subjects. The Company is actively enrolling patients in a Phase II study to evaluate efficacy in hospitalized COVID-19 patients.1 A Phase II study in influenza is currently planned, as are further Phase II and III studies in COVID-19. The Company owns 11 patent families with broad international coverage related to the use of MEK inhibitors and other kinase inhibitors for antiviral therapies. The patent life runs through 2041. Atriva Therapeutics is based in Tübingen and Frankfurt, Germany.

Atriva is a founding member of the BEAT-COV initiative. www.beat-cov.de

For further information, please visit www.atriva-therapeutics.com and follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Atriva Therapeutics GmbH

Christian Pangratz
+49 69 999916210


1 RESPIRE – A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Multi-Centre Clinical Trial to Evaluate the Safety and Efficacy of ATR-002 in Adult Hospitalized Patients with COVID-19.

2     Pleschka S et al. Nat Cell Biol 2001; 3:301-5

3    Pleschka S, Biol. Chem. 2008; 389:1273-1282

4   Haasbach E et al. Antiviral Res 2017; 142:178-4

5    Laure M et al. Antiviral Res 2020; 178:104806

6     Planz O Antiviral Res 2013; 98:457-68

7   Pinto R et al. Antiviral Res 2011; 92:45-56

8    Ragab D et al., Front Immunol 2020; 11: 1446