German government promotes COVID-19 drug development research

Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) is supporting rapid development of drugs to treat patients with COVID-19. A grant program has earmarked EUR 50 million for drugs that are in clinical trials.


A panel of independent scientists has already selected the Tübingen-based company, Atriva Therapeutics GmbH for support. Atriva has received EUR 11.4 million from the BMBF’s “Program to Promote Research and Development of Urgently Needed Therapies for SARS-Cov-2.” Currently in its pipeline is a candidate drug call ATR-002 – a MEK or kinase inhibitor which targets the RNA viruses that cause influenza and COVID-19.

Atriva says the drug blocks a signaling pathway key to RNA virus replication, impeding the formation of functional, new viral particles, thus reducing the body’s viral load. The company adds that ATR-002 has the potential to modulate the pro-inflammatory cytokine response as well. At the same time, because of the way the drug works, it is expected to maintain its efficacy against virus variants such as B.117, B.1.315, and P.1.

The biopharmaceuticals company in mid-April announced ATR-002 began a Phase II clinical trial called “RESPIRE” for adult COVID-19 hospital patients. Company CEO Rainer Lichtenberger said, “ … a broad public funding initiative is extremely important and can be decisive for speeding up the drug development process, as has been demonstrated with the SARS-CoV-2 vaccines.”

Pending good results and regulatory approval, he added that the grant would help bring the drug to the patient faster. “The late clinical development stage, the pivotal Phase III trials in particular, and the manufacturing preparations for the drug are very expensive,” he said, explaining that finding funding could be particularly challenging for small biotech firms.

The BMBF announced the grant program earlier this year. At the time, Germany’s Minister of Education and Research, Anja Karliczek said, “We urgently need additional, effective medicines for treating patients … “ She noted researchers were working on promising drug candidates which employ kinase inhibitors and monoclonal antibodies. Meanwhile a second, summer deadline for grant applications has been introduced to give candidates doing state-of-the-art research additional time to prepare submissions.

The export initiative for the German Healthcare Industry, HEALTH MADE IN GERMANY, is where to learn more about different types of government support that help give the country a thriving pharmaceutical R&D sector. A place to start is the initiative’s website, HEALTH MADE IN GERMANY, which features links to industry profiles and directories.

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