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Biopharm, University Partner on Universal Flu Vaccine

H1N1 virus (CDC)

H1N1 virus (U.S. Centers for Disease Control)

8 May 2014. Etubics Corp. in Seattle and University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston are developing a new type of flu vaccine that aims to provide continuous protection against a variety of seasonal virus strains. The five-year project is funded by a $4.4 million grant from National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of National Institutes of Health, with $1.3 million committed for the first year.

Outbreaks of flu each winter are caused by two types of viruses labelled A and B, with a third (C) type of virus causing a less common and severe form of respiratory illness. The two main types of viruses are collections of sub-types and strains that appear irregularly from one flu season to the next. Public health authorities worldwide plan each year for producing the composition of next season’s vaccines based on research and surveillance coordinated by World Health Organization.

The NIAID grant funds research and development of a vaccine that contains antibody generators for both A and B types of flu viruses, making it possible to cover a wide range of strains that may vary each year. The aim of the new vaccine is to generate an immune response broad enough to prevent seasonal flu infections, even though the strain of A or B viruses may be different from one year to the next.

Etubics Corp. is a biopharmaceutical company with a technology based on adenoviruses, which are associated with various human and animal disease, but also can be engineered to remove their disease-causing properties and made into a delivery mechanism for biological therapies, such as vaccines. The company says its engineered adenoviruses can operate safely in humans, based on early- and intermediate-stage clinical trials, and generate an immune response even among individuals already immune to some adenoviruses.

Etubics is developing a vaccine — currently in preclinical tests — to prevent against H1N1 (swine) flu that reached pandemic stage in 2009, and reappeared in 2014. The company is also developing preventive vaccines for HIV and malaria, as well as adenovirus-delivered therapeutics for colon, breast, and HPV-caused head and neck cancers.

U-T Medical Branch’s part of the project is led by Slobodan Paessler, a pathologist who also directs preclinical studies at the associated Galveston National Lab. The institute’s work includes research on influenza and other infectious respiratory diseases.

In the new project, Etubics and U-T Medical Branch will design genetically-modified genes to express antibody generators from various proteins in the A and B types of flu virus, and cover a wide range of strains, including the highly contagious H5N1 avian flu virus. The project includes tests with lab animals that offer enough evidence to support an application to the Food and Drug Administration for clinical trials.

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