An Update on Kimer Med, Improving on the DRACO Antiviral Technology and Moving Towards the Clinic

The state of anti-viral therapies isn't that great, all things considered. Technology has not yet advanced to the point at which a viral infection can be simply shut down, as is the case for near all bacterial infections. The present anti-viral drugs are either vaccines (useful!) or merely shift the odds somewhat by interfering in some part of the viral life cycle, but nowhere near as effectively as desired. Many persistent viral infections are thought to contribute meaningfully to forms of age-related dysfunction, and there is too little that can be done about that at the present time.

This landscape is one of the reasons why there was so much interest in our community in the double-stranded RNA activated caspase oligomerizer (DRACO) technology, an approach to selectively killing cells in which viral replication is taking place. DRACO offered the promise of being broadly and rapidly effective for ending infection by many different viruses, and doing so with little adaptation of the core technology from virus to virus, a big improvement over the present state of the art. Initial results in animal studies looked good.

As is all too often the case for promising technologies, however, the DRACO research program faltered in funding and ultimately halted. It took some time, and a number of failed fundraising efforts, for another group to emerge to pick up the flag and run with it. That group is Kimer Med, a New Zealand biotech startup. It seems they have made considerable strides in the last few years, building their own version of DRACO without the assistance of the original researchers, and improving on the technology to the point at which clinical trials are foreseeable.

What happened to DRACO?

When Dr Todd Rider announced his breakthrough DRACO discovery in 2011, the world sat up and took notice. Headlines read: "Experimental drug could defeat any virus", and "A kill switch for all viruses". Rider's discovery was called "visionary" by the White House and named one of the best inventions of the year by Time magazine. But then, nothing happened. Rider lost his funding. He tried crowdfunding and failed, and very little has been heard of him and his revolutionary discovery since.

Enter Kimer Med

Kimer Med was founded in March 2020 during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. The founders both knew of Rider's work and understood its potential, but were surprised to find that it had not progressed further, especially given the obvious need. With decades of scientific and entrepreneurial experience between them, they founded Kimer Med to pursue the life-saving promise of broad-spectrum antivirals. However, the journey has not been easy. Both Rider's DRACO paper and the associated patents omitted key information, probably intentionally. It took Kimer Med two years and millions of dollars to unpack Rider's results and fill in the gaps.

But as a result of this research, Kimer Med has been able to refine and build on the foundational science, surpassing Rider's results against human viruses. Recently, the company announced success against a total of 10 different viruses, including all four serotypes of Dengue, Zika, Rhinovirus, Influenza, and HSV-2. Going one step further, Kimer Med has now designed a platform for the rapid development of modular, broad-spectrum antivirals. Using the platform, the company has been able to produce and test a wide range of antiviral compounds. The good news is, based on their antiviral's mechanism of action and the ability to customise antivirals to bypass viral defences, Kimer Med believes that efficacy is likely against many more viruses, as well as new, as-yet-unknown viruses ("disease X").

Does this mean we can cure just about any viral infection?

The initial promise of DRACO was "kryptonite for viruses" - one miracle therapy that could wipe out all viral infection. "Based on our research over the past three years, we don't think that's probable. What is possible, and very much within our reach, is a family of broad-spectrum antivirals, each one capable of treating a group of viruses. For example, our lead candidate works against Dengue and Zika virus, both members of the flavivirus family, and we expect that we'll see results against some other flaviviruses as well."

The implications for human health and longevity

There are currently about 220 viruses known to infect humans, resulting all manner of disease, as well as causing or contributing to many other conditions such as Alzheimer's Disease, multiple sclerosis, and multiple forms of cancer. Numerous latent viruses infect vast numbers of the human population, and are linked to deterioration and dysfunction of the immune system - immunosenescence - which results in increased vulnerability to infection and sickness as we age. Right now, there are approved antiviral treatments for only 11 of these 220 viruses.

Most current antiviral therapies merely suppress or inhibit viral replication. Curative antivirals are scarce, and there's no existing treatment that can eradicate latent infection. One of the potential advantages of Kimer Med's antivirals is that they bolster the innate immune system, helping it eliminate virally infected cells. Instead of bursting open and spreading the virus throughout the body, infected cells are disposed of by triggering a natural process known as apoptosis - the orderly breakdown and disposal of damaged, infected or unwanted cells.

"Despite decades of antiviral development, we really haven't seen anywhere near the same success against viruses as we saw with early antibiotics, such as penicillin and sulfa. Rider's great insight was to target the dsRNA common to virtually all viruses, instead of something highly specific, which is what most conventional antivirals do. This has opened the door to genuinely broad-spectrum antivirals, and paved the way for us to create therapies for a whole range of currently unmet medical needs. Our goal now is to complete our pre-clinical studies and progress our first antiviral through to phase one clinical trials. Ultimately, this is where Rider failed and where we must now succeed."


Go Kiwis!

Posted by: jimofoz at February 23rd, 2024 2:52 PM

@Reason, is this an excerpt from an article where we could read more? Do you have a link?

Posted by: Morpheus at February 24th, 2024 4:09 PM

The claim that there was a lack of funding for DRACO is misleading at best. After Rider crowdfunded $100k (plus $45k from the SRF) for DRACO, he didn't ask for more. Rider got the funding but didn't follow through.

Posted by: Florin at February 24th, 2024 6:31 PM

@Morpheus: It is not from an article, it is from the Kimer Med founders. Their website provides more information.

Posted by: Reason at February 25th, 2024 6:27 AM

The post states that " the DRACO research program faltered in funding and ultimately halted." I can't see how that is misleading.

Rider stated he needed $500K for 4 years, and the Indegogo campaign tried to raise $2 million.
He managed to raise a small fraction of that amount, which was evidently nowhere near enough to set up a lab or get more trials done.

Posted by: Andy at March 3rd, 2024 10:36 PM

Andy, Rider didn't try to crowdfund $500k, he tried to crowdfund $100k, and that's what he got (see my first link). After getting that $100k, he didn't ask for more, as far as I know.

Posted by: Florin at March 4th, 2024 6:08 PM

The Indiegogo campaign had a goal of $100k, not $2 million.

Posted by: Florin at March 4th, 2024 6:54 PM
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