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Bergen, Norway, 21 July 2021 – BerGenBio ASA (OSE: BGBIO), a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company developing novel, selective AXL kinase inhibitors for severe unmet medical need, is pleased to announce that pre-clinical data evaluating bemcentinib, BerGenBio’s first-in-class, potent and highly selective AXL inhibitor, for the treatment of SARS-CoV-2 infection has been presented at the 40th Annual American Society for Virology (ASV).

The presentation was given by BerGenBio’s collaborator, Mr. Dana Bohan, a PhD candidate from the University of Iowa, who outlined previously announced findings from preclinical studies conducted in the Lab of Professor Wendy Maury, Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Iowa. The studies aimed to evaluate AXL as a therapeutic target for COVID-19 infection and the potential effect of BerGenBio’s selective AXL inhibitor bemcentinib to prevent infection by SARS-CoV-2. The investigators concluded that phosphatidylserine receptors, such as AXL, enhance SARS-CoV-2 infection and that inhibition of AXL is a potentially promising therapeutic target for COVID-19.

New data investigating bemcentinib against SARS-CoV-2 mutations was also presented. These data show that bemcentinib is also efficacious in preventing SARS-CoV-2 infection by carrying circulating mutations. Details on the presentation can be found below.

Presenter: Mr. Dana Bohan, PhD candidate, University of Iowa

Title: Phosphatidylserine Receptors Enhance SARS-CoV-2 Infection: AXL as a Therapeutic Target for COVID-19

Workshop: W16: Receptors, Attachment and Entry

Presentation Time: July 20, 2021 at 2:45 PM to 3:00 PM Eastern Time

The presentation will be made available at BerGenBio’s website,


About AXL

AXL kinase is a cell membrane receptor and an essential mediator of the biological mechanisms underlying life-threatening diseases.

In COVID-19, AXL has two synergistic mechanisms of action, it acts a co-receptor to ACE2, to which the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus attaches and enters the host cell, and AXL expression is upregulated in infected organs with an activation of the signalling pathway leading to suppression of the Type 1 Interferon immune response by infected cells and neighbouring cells, in their environment. Pre-clinical research studies demonstrate that bemcentinib inhibits SARS-CoV-2 host cell entry and promotes anti-viral Type I interferon response.

In cancer, increase in AXL expression has been linked to key mechanisms of drug resistance and immune escape by tumour cells, leading to aggressive metastatic cancers. AXL suppresses the body's immune response to tumours and drives treatment failure across many cancers. High AXL expression defines a very poor prognosis subgroup in most cancers. AXL inhibitors, such as bemcentinib, therefore, have potential high value as monotherapy and as the cornerstone of cancer combination therapy, addressing significant unmet medical needs and multiple high-value market opportunities. Research has also shown that AXL mediates other aggressive diseases including fibrosis.

About Bemcentinib

Bemcentinib (formerly known as BGB324), is a potential first-in-class, potent and highly selective AXL inhibitor, currently in a broad phase II clinical development programme. It is administered as an oral capsule and taken once per day. Ongoing clinical trials are investigating bemcentinib in COVID-19, and multiple solid and haematological tumours, in combination with current and emerging therapies (including immunotherapies, targeted therapies and chemotherapy), and as a single agent. Bemcentinib targets and binds to the intracellular catalytic kinase domain of AXL receptor tyrosine kinase and inhibits its activity.

About BerGenBio ASA 

BerGenBio is a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company focused on developing transformative drugs targeting AXL as a potential cornerstone of therapy for aggressive diseases, including immune-evasive, therapy resistant cancers. The company's proprietary lead candidate, bemcentinib, is a potentially first-in-class selective AXL inhibitor in a broad phase II clinical development programme focused on combination and single agent therapy in cancer, leukaemia and COVID-19. A first-in-class functional blocking anti-AXL antibody, tilvestamab, is undergoing phase I clinical testing. In parallel, BerGenBio is developing a companion diagnostic test to identify patient populations most likely to benefit from AXL inhibition: this is expected to facilitate more efficient registration trials supporting a precision medicine -based commercialisation strategy.

BerGenBio is based in Bergen, Norway with a subsidiary in Oxford, UK. The company is listed on the Oslo Stock Exchange (ticker: BGBIO). For more information, visit


Richard Godfrey CEO, BerGenBio ASA 

Rune Skeie, CFO, BerGenBio ASA 
+47 917 86 513 

International Media Relations 

Mary-Jane Elliott, Chris Welsh, Lucy Featherstone, Carina Jurs        

Consilium Strategic Communications   
+44 20 3709 5700 

Media Relations in Norway 

Jan Petter Stiff, Crux Advisers 
+47 995 13 891 

Forward looking statements  

This announcement may contain forward-looking statements, which as such are not historical facts, but are based upon various assumptions, many of which are based, in turn, upon further assumptions. These assumptions are inherently subject to significant known and unknown risks, uncertainties, and other important factors. Such risks, uncertainties, contingencies and other important factors could cause actual events to differ materially from the expectations expressed or implied in this announcement by such forward-looking statements.

This information is subject to the disclosure requirements pursuant to section 5-12 of the Norwegian Securities Trading Act.  


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