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Durham pharma pushing to fight a common cold virus that's deadly to some patients

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For Durham-based Chimerix (Nasdaq: CMRX), fighting a virus known to cause the common cold is not a task it takes lightly.

That's because the company is currently setting up sites for a Phase 2 clinical trial of its lead antiviral drug brincidofovir for the treatment of adenovirus in pediatric transplant patients.

While the common virus is typically treated with over-the-counter medications, for patients with a weakened immune system – such as pediatric transplant patients – it can be very serious – and even fatal, says Chimerix President and CEO Dr. M. Michelle Berrey.

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In fact, data presented by Chimerix at the Annual Meeting of the European Society of Blood and Marrow Transplantation in Lisbon, Portugal, showed that one in three pediatric stem cell transplant recipients in a recent study developed an adenovirus infection within six months of transplant. The data also showed that there was a "greater than ten-fold risk of mortality" in those recipients with the highest levels of the virus.

The goal with brincidofovir is to "decrease the amount of virus in the blood very quickly," says Berrey.

Chimerix started setting up the first sites for the clinical trial in December, she says, and will continue enrolling to 30 to 35 sites in the U.S. and Europe for the next couple of months. The company expects to see data from the 140-patient trial in the second half of next year, and the program could ultimately lead to the company's first approval of a drug for clinical use.

Aside from brincidofovir, Chimerix is also developing the drug for the treatment of human herpesviruses and smallpox in animals. Chimerix is also developing another candidate for the treatment and prevention of norovirus.

The company currently employs 80 people in Durham, and a team of three people in Europe, which it is looking to build out further in the near future as it believes its first launch will be in Europe, closely followed by the U.S., according to Berrey.