ImQuest Participates in International HBV Meeting
Members of ImQuest BioSciences’ scientific team recently attended the International HBV Meeting in Paris, France. The annual meeting sponsored by the Hepatitis B Foundation, focused on the molecular biology of HBV and the development of novel treatment strategies to combat the virus to achieve the challenge of functional cure. Hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection can cause both acute and chronic liver disease, with an estimated 250 million people infected, resulting in over 880,000 deaths in 2015 alone. While an effective vaccine has been available for 35 years, the need for viable treatment options to use in many under-developed regions of the world remains. We appreciated the opportunity to meet with our colleagues in the field of antiviral and HBV drug and vaccine development, and look forward to working in partnership to assist the development of novel HBV therapeutic products.
ImQuest has development of a robust, reproducible, microtiter-based in vitro system to screen anti-HBV compounds utilizing primary human hepatocytes (PHHs). This assay was initially developed using the chronically infected cell lines AD38 and HepG2.2.15 and has been used extensively to screen for effective antiviral agents against HBV infection. While the AD38 and HepG2.2.15 assay remains a reliable and robust assay for screening, the fact remains that utilizing chronically infected target cells renders the assay incapable of assessing agents that might result in inhibition of the early stages of the viral infection, including virus entry, un-coating and initial seeding of infection. To this end we developed our assay using PHH and hNTCP cells, which we infect with infectious HBV produced at ImQuest. These infected primary hepatocytes can then be used to screen for antiviral compounds targeting multiple markers of HBV infection, yielding data on compound efficacy, toxicity and potential mechanism of action simultaneously. The ability to optimize the timing of the infection compared to compound addition has proved critical to the precise assessment of the emergence of particular HBV markers. The use of PHH in an infection assay most closely resembles the natural HBV infection and thus is the gold standard for antiviral agent screening for both acute and chronic infection inhibitors of HBV replication and transmission.
ImQuest also has the capability to produce HBV stocks and can routinely achieve virus concentrations of approximately 5×1010 genome equivalents per milliliter. We can produce crude virus preparations as well as highly concentrated virus utilizing tangential flow filtration technology. This service is available for HBV and a variety of other viral systems, and can be customized to fit our clients’ needs.