Algernon’s NP-120 Surpasses Merck’s MK-7264 in Reducing Cough Frequency in Animal Model of Acute Cough, Study Shows

Joana Carvalho, PhD avatar

by Joana Carvalho, PhD |

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lung tissue, NHLBI grant

Algernon Pharmaceuticals‘s NP-120 (ifenprodil) outperformed Merck‘s MK-7264 (gefapixant) in an animal model of acute cough, a preclinical study by a contract research organization (CRO) shows.

NP-120 is Algernon’s repurposed lead candidate for the treatment of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), while MK-7264 is Merck’s lead candidate for the treatment of chronic cough.

The preclinical study, carried out by Pharmidex, which specializes in respiratory research, showed that NP-120 achieved better results at reducing cough frequency compared with MK-7264 in the guinea pig citric acid challenge model — a well-established model of acute cough.

The results showed that animals treated with NP-120 (1.5 mg/kg) had a 42% reduction in mean cough frequency compared with untreated animals (controls). In contrast, guinea pigs treated with MK-7264 (3.5 mg/kg) had a reduction of 20% in mean cough frequency compared with controls.

However, both compounds failed to significantly delay the onset of the animals’ first cough episode compared with controls. NP-120 showed a delay of 59.8 seconds and MK-7264 of 49.7 seconds, versus 34.2 seconds in the control group.

Full data from the study will be presented by Mark Williams, chief scientific officer of Algernon, at the 12th Annual LD Micro Main Event Conference, being held Dec. 10-12 in Los Angeles.

“We were very pleased to see these results. NP-120 (Ifenprodil) has shown a number of positive therapeutic effects across a number of different conditions in multiple animal studies. As a result, it is a prime candidate to advance into our first phase 2 clinical trial,” Christopher J. Moreau, CEO of Algernon Pharmaceuticals, said in a press release.

This is not the first time that NP-120 has shown superiority over other existing therapies. Algernon recently reported the findings of another preclinical study showing that NP-120 surpassed Genentech‘s Esbriet (pirfenidone) and Boehringer Ingelheim‘s Ofev (nintedanib) in reducing lung tissue scarring, or fibrosis in a mouse model of IPF.

“To have identified a drug that may reduce fibrosis in IPF patients that also treats cough would be a significant discovery,” said Martin Kolb, professor in the division of respirology at McMaster University, said.

“People that suffer from this terrible disease need new treatment options to extend their lives post diagnosis and reduce their suffering,” Kolb added.

It is estimated that 70-85% of IPF patients experience a dry, non-productive cough.

NP-120 belongs to a class of compounds known as N-methyl-d-aspartate (NDMA) receptor glutamate receptor antagonists. Algernon is currently investigating its potential as a novel “first-in-class” treatment for IPF and chronic cough, and is planning to move the therapy directly to a Phase 2 clinical trial to assess its effectiveness in IPF patients.

In the meantime, the company has filed several patent applications to protect the intellectual property rights to NP-120.