SEEK announces positive outcome for universal flu vaccine trial

6 Jan 2011

SEEK, a UK drug-discovery group, presented results of a Phase I safety and tolerability study for its investigational Universal Influenza Vaccine, FLU-v at the World Influenza Congress in Amsterdam last month.

The results showed that the vaccine was well tolerated and had no significant identifiable safety issues. Clear evidence of immunogenicity (provoking an immune response) across a wide range of the human population was also demonstrated, consistent with results seen in pre-clinical studies.

FLU-v is the first of a new class of breakthrough T cell vaccines that are anticipated to be effective against the highly-mutagenic influenza virus, and has been developed to provide a single vaccination which is effective against all strains of influenza virus, including pandemic strains.

Gregory Stoloff, Chief Executive Officer, commented: "This Phase I data validates our predictive model in humans, which to date had only been validated in other species. Importantly, the data is consistent with the immune response seen in other species — that showed protection against many strains of flu — and we therefore eagerly await the data from the Phase II study, which will provide information on safety, efficacy and cross-protection against a number of strains of flu."

A Phase II study to examine the safety, tolerability and protective efficacy of FLU-v in an influenza challenge has also been completed with data expected early 2011.

Using a novel predictive technique, SEEK has successfully identified small proteins (which can be synthetically manufactured) to which the immune system will react, in regions of the influenza flu virus that have not changed over 60 years (in either human or animal strains), and developed a vaccine to target them. By targeting these reactive small proteins that are in ever-present or "conserved" regions of the virus, the vaccine is intended to provide long-term protection against the threat of emerging strains, eliminating the need for an annual vaccination.

The need for FLU-v: a universal influenza vaccine

Unlike traditional vaccines, which are grown in highly-specialised facilities, and whose production is limited by egg supply and the process of growing a vaccine, FLU-v can be quickly and easily manufactured in chemical plants. This allows the vaccine to be made and administered in large quantities prior to a pandemic outbreak, enabling a large proportion of the global population to be protected.

Major mutations in the antigen components of the virus can result in global pandemics, such as the outbreak of "Spanish flu" in 1918-1919, "Asian influenza" in 1957, "Hong Kong influenza" in 1968 and the H1N1 pandemic in 2010.

There is also current concern about the potential transmission of an avian A (H5N1) strain to humans. However, even minor genetic changes require the annual reformulation of currently-used vaccines and re-inoculating at-risk individuals. There is therefore a significant need for a flu vaccine that will be protective against a range of strains of the virus and which can confer long term immunity. FLU-v is designed to protect against both type A and B viruses, as well as antigenic drift within each virus type.

MTB Europe published news in December 2010 of a trial of another universal flu vaccine, called GammaFlu, taking place in Indonesia — see: Universal flu vaccine to be tested in Indonesia


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