Cyclosporin A (CsA) inhibits replication of the HCV subgenomic replicon, and this effect is believed to not be mediated by its immunosuppressive action. We found that DEBIO-025, a novel non-immunosuppressive cyclophilin inhibitor derived from CsA, inhibited HCV replication in vitro more potently than CsA. We also examined the inhibitory effect of DEBIO-025 on naive HCV genotypes 1a or 1b in vivo using chimeric mice with human hepatocytes. These mice were treated for 14 days with DEBIO-025, pegylated-interferon alpha-2a (Peg-IFN), a combination of either drugs, or CsA in combination with Peg-IFN. In mice treated with Peg-IFN, serum HCV RNA levels decreased approximately 10-fold whereas DEBIO-025 treatment alone did not induce any significant change. In mice treated with both DEBIO-025 and Peg-IFN, HCV RNA levels decreased more than 100-fold. All mice treated with Peg-IFN combined with CsA died within 4 days. The combination treatment of DEBIO-025 and Peg-IFN reduced HCV RNA levels and core protein expression in liver, indicating that the HCV RNA levels reduction in serum was attributable to intrahepatic inhibition of HCV replication.
Conclusion: We demonstrated that DEBIO-025 was better tolerated than CsA, and that its anti-HCV effect appeared to be synergistic in combination with Peg-IFN in vivo.