Company is exploiting short-chain fatty acids against sickle cell disease, beta thalassemia, and EBV-related lymphoid cancers.

HemaQuest Pharmaceuticals obtained $12 million in a Series B financing round led by new investor, Aberdare Ventures. The firm will use the funds to develop its two lead products, HQK-1001 and HQK-1004, through Phase II trials.

HQK-1001 is an orally administered small molecule currently undergoing proof-of-concept trials in patients with either sickle cell disease or beta thalassemia. Results from both trials are expected during the first half of this year. HemaQuest describes HQK-1004 as a unique therapy designed to treat hematologic malignancies associated with viral infections. The candidate is due to start in a Phase II trial in the near future.

HQK-1001 is a short-chain fatty acid (SCFA) derivative. HemaQuest claims that the drug has a unique combination of biological effects including the induction of fetal globin and the stimulation of red blood cell production. The firm believes that it addresses the underlying pathological mechanisms in both sickle cell disease and beta thalassemia.

HQK-1004 is another SCFA compound designed to induce expression of the viral enzyme, thymidine kinase (TK). HemaQuest says that while this enzyme is the target of several common antiviral drugs, the TK gene is silenced in a number of viral-related diseases, making them resistant to standard antiviral therapeutics. The firm believes that inducing expression of the silenced gene will allow the use of antivirals such as ganciclovir to specifically target virally infected cells.

HQK-1004 is currently in development for the treatment of hematologic malignancies caused by Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), which does not express the viral TK gene. However, HemaQuest suggests, HQK-1004 may also have potential in the treatment of other EBV-related malignancies including stomach cancer and nasopharyngeal carcinoma. The company further suggests that the concept of re-expressing silenced viral genes could have wider reaching applications in the treatment of other relevant viral infections such as cytomegalovirus, herpes zoster, and HIV.

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