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Groundbreaking Snake Venom Inspired Approach to Restore Blood Clotting in Patients Using Anticoagulants

VarmX, a Dutch, Leiden based biotech company focusing on the development of therapies in the field of hemostasis and thrombosis, today announced the publication in Nature Communications of a ground breaking LUMC study(1) on modified human factor X as a safe and effective reversal agent for prevention and treatment of bleeding in patients taking factor Xa oral anticoagulants. This new therapeutic factor X was inspired by a snake venom protein, and is the lead product in development of VarmX, a pharmaceutical LUMC spin off.

Slangengif leidt bij toeval tot middel om te dun bloed te laten stollen-980x450

To avoid spontaneous stroke or deep vein thrombosis, currently millions of cardiac patients worldwide daily take synthetic factor Xa anticoagulants, such as apixaban, edoxaban or rivaroxaban.  But there is one major disadvantage. As yet there is no agent to stop the effect of these anticoagulants. This is a significant unmet medical need for the many patients experiencing severe (internal) bleeding or requiring emergency surgery. Today, when a patient requires emergency surgery, doctors have to wait for the medication to clear, because patients may otherwise suffer from severe bleeding. Due to the increasing use of factor Xa inhibitors for anti-coagulation, global demand for a compound such as PseudoXa is growing rapidly.

Snake venom

R&D was performed by one of the world’s leading groups in hemostasis and thrombosis at the Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC), led by professor Pieter Reitsma. For the research group a snake venom protein of the most venomous snake in the world, the Australian brown snake, was their source of inspiration. The responsible protein in the snake venom causes blood to clot, but differs from that of a human being. The researchers subsequently identified the part of the snake’s coagulation protein that was different and applied this to the human version.

Pieter Reitsma, Professor emeritus of Molecular and Experimental Medicine at LUMC and CSO of VarmX explains: “The altered human protein did exactly what it had to do: in the laboratory our researchers observed that the protein did cause the blood to coagulate, but did not react to the blood thinners. In this way the effect of blood thinners is bypassed. This is ideal when a patient who takes blood thinners requires emergency surgery.”
“Innovative research into the properties of this snake’s venom provided the scientific basis for the factor Xa reversal agent. This is exemplary of the translation of basic research into a potential life-saving therapy. ”


VarmX has exclusively in-licensed the rights to the compound from the LUMC and will continue to collaborate with the LUMC. In June 2017 VarmX raised capital and initiated the product development of PseudoXa, with the aim to bring this innovative therapy to the market after extensive clinical testing.