Our science

The search for better respiratory therapies

The goal for Verona Pharma is to build a strong clinical R&D pipeline to target debilitating respiratory diseases.

Our breakthrough lead product, RPL554, is first-in-class. It offers a unique, dual mechanism of action unlike any other type of drug currently available or in development for respiratory diseases. Uniquely, it combines bronchodilator and anti-inflammatory properties in one compound and has the potential to benefit patients not satisfactorily treated with existing medicines. It has secured the Company Venture and Innovation awards from the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, UK, to continue its study in models of cystic fibrosis. The funds from these awards have enabled us to demonstrate that in addition to its bronchodilator and anti-inflammatory properties, RPL554 also activates CFTR, the protein behind the genetic defect in cystic fibrosis. This is just part of the process of building a strong clinical R&D pipeline for more breakthrough, first-in-class drugs to treat respiratory diseases. 

lab VER.jpg
Our breakthrough lead product, RPL554, has secured us Venture and Innovation awards from the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, UK, to continue its study in models of cystic fibrosis

Product pipeline

Indication RPL554
Formulation
Pre-clinical Phase 1 Phase 2 Phase 3
 
Maintenance treatment COPD Nebulizer        
Treatment of acute COPD Nebulizer        
Maintenance treatment COPD DPI/MDI        
Cystic Fibrosis Nebulizer        
Treatment of asthma* DPI/MDI        

*Treatment of asthma is a future potential indication and will most likely be pursued together with a larger pharma partner

RPL554 target indications 

RPL554 is a first-in-class inhaled drug in development to treat respiratory diseases with significant unmet medical needs such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and cystic fibrosis (CF) and potentially asthma and other respiratory diseases.

RPL554 is currently being developed in a nebulized formulation for the maintenance treatment of COPD patients and as a treatment for CF. It is also being developed as an add-on therapy to commonly used therapies for the treatment of acute exacerbations of COPD in the hospital setting. It has the potential to substantially improve lung function and quality of life of patients not satisfactorily treated with existing drugs.

We are also developing dry powder inhaler (DPI) and metered dose inhaler (MDI) formulations of RPL554 for maintenance treatment of COPD and may develop these formulations for asthma and other respiratory diseases.

Licensing opportunities

Unique mechanism of action

RPL554 is a dual inhibitor of the phosphodiesterase 3 (PDE3) and phosphodiesterase 4 (PDE4) enzymes. This dual inhibition enables it to combine bronchodilator and anti-inflammatory properties in one compound, differentiating it from existing drug classes used to treat COPD, including corticosteroids, beta2-agonists and anti-muscarinics.

RPL554 also activates the Cystic Fibrosis Transmembrane Conductance Regulator (CFTR), which is beneficial in reducing mucous viscosity and improving mucociliary clearance, thereby potentially also making it an attractive therapy for the treatment of CF.

The three key activities of RPL554 in respiratory diseases

Previous attempts to develop PDE4 inhibitors for COPD, asthma and other indications have been limited by side effects, particularly those centered on the gastrointestinal system, such as nausea, vomiting and weight loss.  RPL554 is designed to maximize effectiveness and reduce adverse events by:

  • relying on a chemical structure that is distinct from other PDE4 inhibitors to avoid gastrointestinal and other side effects typically associated with PDE4 inhibition;

  • having high selectivity for PDE3 and PDE4 over other enzymes and receptors to minimize off-target effects;

  • enabling delivery directly to the lung by inhalation, thereby maximizing pulmonary exposure to RPL554 while minimizing systemic distribution and potential adverse events.

By acting as an inhaled, dual inhibitor of PDE3 and PDE4 and stimulating the CFTR, we believe that RPL554 has the potential to be a more effective and better tolerated treatment of COPD than existing standalone PDE4 inhibitors. We also believe these properties give RPL554 broad potential applicability in the treatment of other respiratory diseases, including CF.

Diagram AC 4 c
The figure shown here illustrates the three key activities of RPL554 in respiratory diseases

Targeting unmet needs

384m people worldwide suffer from COPD and 37 years is the median life expectancy of CF patients

Read more about COPD and CF in the unmet needs section of this website

Go

Basic & Clinical Pharmacology & Toxicology

Peer-reviewed publication on dual PDE3/4 inhibitors as novel treatments for COPD

The Lancet Respiratory Medicine

Peer-reviewed paper in the Lancet's highly-respected medication journal

Clinical development

To date RPL554 has been studied in ten Phase 1 and 2a clinical trials involving over 324 human subjects

These studies have shown clinically meaningful and statistically significant improvements in lung function versus bronchodilator drugs. RPL544 has also demonstrated anti-inflammatory effects in clinical trials, which we believe provide a differentiated anti-inflammatory profile. RPL554 has been well tolerated in each of the clinical trials and has not been observed to result in the gastrointestinal or other side effects commonly associated with PDE4 inhibitors.

Initial proof-of-concept formulation

The initial proof-of-concept inhaled formulation of RPL554 was studied in five clinical trials involving 105 human subjects, where it demonstrated bronchodilator, bronchoprotective and potent anti-inflammatory effects. It was also well tolerated (especially with respect to cardiovascular and gastrointestinal effects). The results for these studies were published in the Lancet Respiratory Medicine in 2013.

New nebulized formulation

Based on this positive early data, in 2014, we developed a new, proprietary nebulized formulation for our ongoing development programs. This formulation was designed to have a broader dose range, improved PK profile and dosing regime and neutral pH.  

In this formulation, RPL554 has been confirmed in five Phase 1 and 2 trials, involving 219 subjects, to be well tolerated at all dose levels and to cause a pronounced improvement in lung function in COPD patients. When inhaled on top of standard doses of commonly used bronchodilators, RPL554 produced a statistically significant (P≤0.001) and a clinically meaningful additional (>50%) bronchodilator response.

For the results of these five trials, please see our announcements:

 

Ongoing clinical development

Potential for multiple targeted indications, formulations and add-on therapies

Verona Pharma is currently undertaking a comprehensive Phase 2 clinical trial programme for nebulized RPL554 as a maintenance treatment of COPD and as an add-on therapy to bronchodilators and other commonly used therapies for the treatment of hospitalized patients with acute exacerbations of COPD.

We are also conducting a clinical study to evaluate the potential of RPL554 as a treatment for cystic fibrosis. The Company has received two Venture and Innovation Awards from the UK Cystic Fibrosis Trust to support its CF studies.

 

Market opportunity

Targeting unmet needs

A truly worthwhile objective. We believe RPL554 has the potential to be the first novel type of bronchodilator in over forty years.

New medicines for COPD have become more accessible, and convenient for the patient, but with little prospect of substantially improving the current management and treatment of this serious disease.

Clinical and Scientific Advisory Board

Verona Pharma has a Clinical and Scientific Advisory Board (CSAB) of key opinion leaders in the fields of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) to help guide and inform the future clinical development of Verona Pharma’s lead drug candidate, RPL554. Our CSAB includes the following members:


Gerard Criner, MD

Professor of Thoracic Medicine and Surgery at Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University, Philadelphia, PA

Gerard Criner, MD, is Chair and Professor of Thoracic Medicine and Surgery at Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University in Philadelphia, PA, where he also obtained his medical degree in 1989. Dr. Criner completed his internship and residency in internal medicine at Temple University Hospital, and his fellowship in pulmonary and critical care medicine at Boston University School of Medicine in Boston, MA.

Dr. Criner is committee member of the Intensive Care Unit Committee at Temple University Hospital and executive director of Philadelphia Critical Care Society. He also serves on the board of directors for the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) and acts as Chairman for the ACCP guidelines on the prevention of acute exacerbations in COPD. As a principal investigator, Dr. Criner has received extensive research funding and has conducted several clinical trials in pulmonary disease. Dr. Criner’s primary research focuses on advanced lung conditions, including COPD, emphysema, pulmonary fibrosis, pulmonary hypertension, and respiratory failure. Dr. Criner has published over 300 scientific papers, reviews, and book chapters, with numerous research articles in peer-reviewed journals including New England Journal of Medicine, American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine (AJRCCM), Chest and Lancet Respiratory Medicine. He serves on the editorial review board of Advances for Respiratory Care Managers and AJRCCM. Dr. Criner has lectured nationally and internationally at numerous scientific meetings and congresses.
 

Leonardo M. Fabbri, MD, FERS

Visiting Professor of Internal and Respiratory Medicine, University of Gothenburg COPD Center, Sahlgrenska Hospital, Gothenburg

Prof. Fabbri received his doctorate in Medicine and Surgery from the University of Padua in 1972 (110/110 summa cum laude), Board in Occupational Medicine from the University of Padua on 1975 (70/70 summa cum laude) and Board on Respiratory Medicine from the University of Bologna on 1978 (70/70 summa cum laude).

He has been a Visiting Research Fellow at the Department of Respiratory Diseases of Tulane University and at the Cardiovascular Research Institute at the University of California, San Francisco, USA. He has served as Editor of the European Respiratory Review and of the European Respiratory Monograph and as Associate Editor of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. From 2004 he is Associate Editor of the European Respiratory Journal, from 2010 of the European Journal of Clinical Investigation and from 2012 of The Lancet Respiratory Medicine.

Prof. Fabbri leads a multicentre research group carrying on clinical trials on the role of inflammation in asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases. He has published more than 300 papers in extenso in peer-reviewed journals. He was member of the Executive Committee of the Global Initiative on Asthma (GINA) from 1990 to 2001; member of the Scientific Committee of the Global Initiative on Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) from 1997 to 2005 and from 2009 to date; Chairman of the Scientific Committee of the Global Initiative on Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) from 2001 to 2004; member of the Workshop Panel of the Global Initiative on Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) from 2001 to 2005; and Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Global Initiative on Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) from 2004 to September 2005.

Prof. Fabbri was elected vice-president of the ERS in September 2005, with mandate to become President Elect (2006-7), President (2007-8), and Past president (2008-9).
 

Gary T. Ferguson, M.D.

Director, Pulmonary Research Institute of Southeast Michigan, Clinical Professor of Medicine, Michigan State University

Dr. Ferguson is a graduate of the University of Washington School of Medicine. He received his postgraduate training at the University of Washington and then at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Centers, specializing in pulmonary and critical care medicine. After completing a research fellowship at National Jewish Center for Immunology and Respiratory Medicine, Dr. Ferguson joined the faculty of the University of Colorado and National Jewish Medical Center as Director of the Emphysema/COPD program.  He continued his academic career at Wayne State University School of Medicine. 

Dr. Ferguson is currently Director of the Pulmonary Research Institute of Southeast Michigan, Clinical Professor of Medicine at Michigan State University and Director of Pulmonary Research at St John’s/Providence Medical Center. He is board certified in Internal Medicine, Pulmonary Medicine and Critical Care Medicine and is a Fellow of the American College of Chest Physicians. He has repeatedly been selected to America’s Best Doctors.

Dr. Ferguson’s research interests focus predominantly on airways diseases, primarily COPD and asthma. He is published extensively in peer review journals and textbooks and has lectured nationally and internationally in his fields of interest. He is on the editorial board of the journal J COPD Foundation and regularly reviews research for several journals and for national granting agencies.
 

Prof. Klaus F. Rabe

Professor of Pulmonary Medicine, University of Kiel, Director of the Department of Pneumology, Lung Clinic Grosshansdorf, Germany

Professor Rabe has been active in various fields of respiratory medicine worldwide. His current scientific interests are related to large clinical trials in COPD and asthma, the mechanisms of airway inflammation and the endoscopic staging of lung cancer. Professor Rabe has been involved in many major COPD trials, including the pivotal roflumilast studies.  Professor Rabe is Past President of ERS and currently serves as Vice Chairman of the German Center for Lung Research. He is the current President of the German Chest Society and a member of the British Pharmacological Society and the American Thoracic Society. He has served on committees for both the Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA) and the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD). Professor Rabe was the first European Associate Editor of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, and is past Chief Editor of the European Respiratory Journal. He is currently an editorial board member for several scientific journals.
 

Prof. Dave Singh

Professor of Clinical Pharmacology and Respiratory Medicine, University of Manchester

Professor Singh graduated from Cambridge University and trained in clinical pharmacology and respiratory medicine in Manchester, including postgraduate research. His research interest is the development of new drugs for asthma and COPD, involving clinical trials, biomarker studies and basic mechanisms. He has over 200 publications in peer reviewed journals, and is a member of the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) Science Committee. He is a professor of clinical pharmacology and respiratory medicine at the University of Manchester, and the medical director of the Medicines Evaluation Unit, which performs both early and late phase clinical trials.
 

Prof. Wisia Wedzicha

National Heart and Lung Institute, Imperial College London, UK

Wisia Wedzicha is Professor of Respiratory Medicine and Head of the Airways Division at the National Heart and Lung Institute, Imperial College, UK. She qualified from Somerville College, Oxford University and St Bartholomew’s Hospital Medical College, University of London. She was elected as Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences (FMedSci) in 2013 and is a National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) Senior Investigator.  She received the Helmholtz International Fellow Award in 2014 and she delivered the Samuel Gee lecture at the Royal College of Physicians in 2016.

Professor Wedzicha has a major interest in the causes, mechanisms, impact and prevention of COPD exacerbations, and in the role of bacterial and viral infection in COPD exacerbations. She directs an active research group specialising in COPD exacerbations, and has published extensively on this topic.

Professor Wedzicha chaired the English Department of the Health Home Oxygen Clinical User Group, and was a member of the Guideline Development Group for the revision of the National Institute for Healthcare and Clinical Excellence COPD Guidelines. She was a member of the Programme Board for the COPD National Clinical Strategy.

Professor Wedzicha was Editor-in-Chief of Thorax from 2002 to 2010, and is a member of the BioMed Central advisory board. She is currently Editor in Chief for the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. In addition, she is on the editorial boards of a number of international journals. She was the Lancet Ombudsman till 2014, Publications Director for the European Respiratory Society (ERS) and has also previously been ERS Guidelines Director.

 

Close

Verona Pharma plc
3 More London Riverside, London SE1 2RE
T: +44 (0)203 283 4200

Linkedin     Email Us