Anti-hepatitis C virus (HCV) drug development has been challenged by a lack of experience with inhibitors inclusive of in vitro, animal model, and clinical study. This manuscript outlines activity and correlation across such a spectrum of models and into clinical trials with a novel selective nonstructural protein 5B (NS5B) polymerase inhibitor, HCV796. Enzyme assays yielded median inhibitory concentration (IC50) values of 0.01 to 0.14μMfor genotype 1, with half maximal effective concentration (EC50s) of 5 nM and 9 nM against genotype 1a and 1b replicons. In the chimeric mouse model, a 2.02±0.55 log reduction in HCV titer was seen with monotherapy, whereas a suboptimal dose of 30 mg/kg three times per day in combination with interferon demonstrated a 2.44 log reduction (P- 0.001 versus interferon alone) Clinical outcomes in combination with pegylated interferon and ribavirin have revealed additive efficacy in treatment naïve patients. Abnormal liver function test results were observed in 8% of HCV-796 patients treated for over 8 weeks, resulting in suspension of further trial activity. Conclusion: The RNA-dependent RNA polymerase inhibitor HCV796 demonstrated potent anti-HCV activity consistently through enzyme inhibition assays, subgenomic replicon, and chimeric mouse studies. Strong correlations of outcomes in the mouse model were seen with subsequent clinical trials, including a plateau in dose-related antiviral activity and additive impact from combination therapy with interferon. These outcomes demonstrate the utility of the range of in vitro and in vivo models now available for anti-HCV drug development and support the potential utility of polymerase inhibitors in future combination therapies for HCV treatment.
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