We report the discovery of a new potent allosteric effector of sickle cell hemoglobin, GBT440 (36), that increases the affinity of hemoglobin for oxygen and consequently inhibits its polymerization when subjected to hypoxic conditions. Unlike earlier allosteric activators that bind covalently to hemoglobin in a 2:1 stoichiometry, 36 binds with a 1:1 stoichiometry. Compound 36 is orally bioavailable and partitions highly and favorably into the red blood cell with a RBC/plasma ratio of ∼150. This partitioning onto the target protein is anticipated to allow therapeutic concentrations to be achieved in the red blood cell at low plasma concentrations. GBT440 (36) is in Phase 3 clinical trials for the treatment of sickle cell disease (NCT03036813).
Keywords: Schiff-base formation; Sickle cell disease; aldehyde; allosteric modulator; oxygen affinity; red blood cell partitioning; sickle cell hemoglobin.