1695105267 The Viennese killer viruses Forbes Austria

The Viennese killer viruses Forbes Austria

September 19, 2023

Since 2019, Guido Gualdoni and his partner Johannes Stöckl have been CEO of the biotechnology company G.ST Antivirals in Vienna and have been researching with their team the world’s first drug against rhinovirus. But what are the chances of the company taking the pharmaceutical industry to a new level through its discovery?

As soon as you enter the Vienna Bio Center campus, it is clear that unauthorized people cannot enter. After some security passes and chip-controlled doors, the Forbes team is in one of the many laboratories, among lab coats, microscopes and a centrifuge. During the interview, alongside Guido Gualdoni, co-CEO of G.ST Antivirals, are three small nasal sprays with the biotechnology company’s logo. They may contain the long-awaited definitive cure against rhinoviruses, the most common cold pathogen, as well as the coronavirus.

When you have the stereotypical image of a scientist in the laboratory handling test tubes, the question arises (with images of the corona pandemic still fresh in your mind) whether Gualdoni is exposed to health risks in his work. The doctor states that this almost does not exist at GST Antivirals due to the low risk level of the viruses with which his company works.

Although rhinoviruses are not life-threatening in most cases, in extreme cases they can cause death in people with respiratory illnesses. In 2020, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) in Germany recorded 1.2 million medical consultations for respiratory infections in one week and estimates the total number of acute respiratory illnesses in the population at 4.5 million. The global cold and flu medicine market was valued at US$15.72 billion in 2022 and is expected to reach US$27.82 billion by 2030.

Rhinoviruses are the most common pathogens that cause colds, runny noses and other respiratory illnesses and are behind more than 50% of all colds. However, due to the constant changes in viruses, until now there has been no therapeutic agent against the pathogens worldwide. For this reason, many pharmaceutical companies have already tried what G.ST Antivirals has now achieved: finding a possible medicine that fights cold viruses.

With the discovery of a drug therapy against rhinovirus, Gualdoni and co-CEO Johannes Stöckl achieved a breakthrough that could go down in medical history. G.ST Antivirals is the first company in the world to treat not the virus itself, but the rhinovirus-infected cell, also known as the host cell – and is therefore pursuing a completely new approach. The biotechnology company, which is currently in the clinical phase with the drug, intervenes in the metabolism of the host cell, manipulates it and inhibits the use of sugar so that the virus starves to death.

The Viennese killer viruses Forbes Austria

“Great care is being taken to extensively test new medicines in order to avoid harm to people,” says Guido Gualdoni.

The anti-inflammatory and antiviral substance is currently in phase one testing at the Vienna General Hospital (AKH), ​​where, after years of research and numerous animal tests, it has been proven to have a positive effect. If the drug presents the desired effect, the test moves to phase two, in which the tolerability of the dose is tested. The third and final phase involves a large group of volunteers on whom the medicine is tested. It usually takes several years from the first phase of testing to approval of a medicine – “only then can a medicine be approved for the public. Intensive care is taken to extensively test new medicines in order to prevent harm to people”, explains Gualdoni. For the founder, people’s well-being has top priority.

The 35-year-old CEO studied human medicine at the Medical University of Vienna from 2007 to 2013 and during his six years of study completed stays abroad at institutions such as the University of California Los Angeles, Fudan University Shanghai, Katete Hospital in Zambia . and the Charité in Berlin. After graduating in 2013, Gualdoni worked as an assistant doctor at the Institute of Immunology in Vienna – and thus laid the foundation for his career as an entrepreneur: Gualdoni had already met the professor of immunology and current co-founder of G.ST Antivirals Johannes at the University Doctor from Vienna Stöckl, who has more than 20 years of experience in the field of immunology. At that time, they were already researching an antiviral solution together and were named “Investors of the Year 2020” in 2021.

As a result of the discovery, Gualdoni decided to take the next step together with his co-founder – namely leaving the Medical University of Vienna and opening his own company to explore the idea. “It was very difficult for me to say goodbye, but at some point it became clear to me that I had to take matters into my own hands and today I am very happy that we solved the problem,” said Gualdoni, looking back.

When it was founded in October 2019, the former start-up was plunged directly into the pandemic, which caused the search for a cure to increase even more. “We then started experimenting and realized that the medicine was extremely effective against cold viruses. We later discovered that it even fought against SARS-CoV-2.” With these findings, Gualdoni turned to the development bank Austria Wirtschaftsservice (AWS) with G.ST Antivirals.
and I received the financial support I expected. On the day of its founding, the businessman spoke to several potential investors and finally decided on the investor Xista – although the biotechnology company received early positive feedback from pharmaceutical companies that recognized the potential of the discoveries, for them the risk was this investigation. to support or assume oneself, initially too large. For the G.ST Antivirals team, investors’ interest was confirmation that they should continue with the matter.

Today the company has ten employees; Immunologists, clinical project managers and laboratory assistants. “We are a very compact and powerful team, where everyone really knows what they are talking about, which obviously makes everything even easier,” says Gualdoni.

Looking to the future, in addition to the nasal spray, the Viennese company also has a nebulizer similar to an inhaler in the works and will soon enter the clinical testing phase. According to Gualdoni, G.ST Antivirais already has a five-year horizon dedicated to the next phases of the nasal spray and nebulizer. The CEO’s goal is to be at the forefront of antiviral medicines and continue to make the best possible use of his research leadership in the future.

Guido Gualdoni was born in Buenos Aires in 1988. Since October 2019, he has been CEO of the biotechnology company G.ST Antivirals together with his co-founder Johannes Stöckl. Together with his team, Gualdoni discovered a long-awaited remedy against rhinoviruses.

Text: Anika Fallnbügl
Photos: Katharina Gossow