First-in-human randomized study of RNAi therapeutic RG6346 for chronic hepatitis B virus infection

J Hepatol. 2023 Nov;79(5):1139-1149. doi: 10.1016/j.jhep.2023.07.026. Epub 2023 Jul 29.


Background & aims: RG6346 is an N-acetyl-D-galactosamine (GalNAc)-conjugated, double-stranded RNA interference agent targeting the HBV genome S-region. We investigated the safety, tolerability, pharmacokinetics, and pharmacodynamics of RG6346 in healthy volunteers and patients with chronic HBV infection (CHB).

Methods: This first-in-human, adaptive, randomized, double-blinded, phase I study recruited three groups of participants: Group A, 30 healthy volunteers received single-dose RG6346 at 0.1, 1.5, 3.0, 6.0, or 12.0 mg/kg, or placebo; Group B, nucleos(t)ide analogue-naïve participants with CHB received single-dose RG6346 at 3.0 mg/kg (n = 6) or placebo (n = 3); Group C, participants with nucleos(t)ide-suppressed CHB received four doses (every 28 days) of RG6346 at 1.5, 3.0, or 6.0 mg/kg (n = 4 in each cohort) or placebo (n = 6).

Results: RG6346 treatment for up to 4 months was safe and well tolerated. The most common adverse event was a mild injection site reaction. Several nucleos(t)ide-naïve participants exhibited self-resolving transaminase elevations with preserved liver function. By the end of RG6346 treatment in Group C (Day 112), the mean reduction from baseline in hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) was 1.39, 1.80, and 1.64 log10 IU/ml in the 1.5, 3.0, and 6.0 mg/kg cohorts, respectively. Of the 12 participants in Group C, 11 (91.7%) achieved a ≥1 log10 IU/ml reduction in HBsAg (3 of 11 [27.3%] had the response sustained at conditional follow-up Day 448). No dose-response relationship was apparent between RG6346 and serum HBsAg levels. The RG6346-induced HBsAg response was independent of hepatitis B e antigen status. Moderate-to-marked sustained reductions of hepatitis B core-related antigen, HBV RNA, HBV DNA (in nucleos[t]ide analogue-naïve participants), and hepatitis B e antigen levels were observed.

Conclusions: These favorable safety and pharmacodynamic data support the clinical development of RG6346 as the backbone of a finite antiviral treatment regimen, with the goal of sustained HBsAg loss (functional cure) in patients with CHB.

Clinical trial number: NCT03772249.

Impact and implications: Currently available therapies for chronic HBV infection are associated with low rates of functional cure and new, more efficacious treatments are needed. This first-in-human study of RG6346, an RNA interference therapy, showed a favorable safety profile as well as marked and durable reductions in hepatitis B surface antigen levels. These results support the continued development of RG6346 as the backbone of a finite treatment regimen targeting high functional cure rates and are important for HBV researchers and physicians.

Keywords: Gene expression; Hepatitis B virus; Immune clearance; Pharmacology; Therapeutic use.

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