After a suspected antigenic drift last year, which changed the effectiveness of vaccines protecting against the virus, a call to action to create a universal flu vaccine was heard.
Scientists have stated that, if successfully developed, a universal flu vaccine could combat many flu viruses and protect a greater portion of the population.
InvVax is aiming to develop a universal flu vaccine and in preclinical studies targeted four invariant regions, each of which have induced an immune response in mice.
These invariant regions are parts of a vaccine that can prevent immune evasion and overcome a mutation to the virus. Essentially, invariant regions keep the vaccine steady and protective against all strains without the threat of virus mutation or resistance.
Preclinical trials demonstrated success when mice were given the vaccine through intranasal delivery or subcutaneously. The mice were also injected with the site-specific flu virus.
The group of mice receiving the vaccine had a survival rate of 100% and the control group, which had been given no vaccine, had a survival rate of 0%.
The Trudeau Institute, a contract research organization (CRO), carried out the company’s vaccine protection studies in mice with an H1N1 flu strain, and one study with H3N2. One of the partners in the study, Hong Kong University, led a similar study but with a different strain of H3N2.
Arthur Young, founder and President of InvVax told us the company is going after invariant regions because then the virus cannot mutate to protect itself from the vaccine, or if it does do so, it ‘self-destructs.’
“Vaccines from other groups can be escaped from when the virus mutates because no one else is targeting invariant regions,” said Young.
Young explained further that the 15 invariant regions the company selected as part of its vaccine cover all strains of flu. “There are a few variants within these 15 regions, and we cover those with multiple peptides,” said Young.
There are other universal flu vaccine candidates, as Young mentioned, one of these candidates being BiondVax’s M-001, which began Phase III clinical trials in March of this year.
M-001 is comprised of nine epitopes common to the vast majority of influenza virus strains, including influenza Type A and B. BiondVax completed six successful clinical trials which demonstrated an immunogenic response to a range of influenza strains.
Exit by acquisition
InvVax is currently in a Series A round of fundraising to support preclinical safety studies and the Phase I clinical trial. No further details of this fundraising were disclosed.
“InvVax expects to exit by acquisition by big pharma as early as after Phase I trials,” said Young.
He continued, “We are not yet ready for this to happen [the company is still in preclinical testing], and expect to be [ready] around 2021-2023.”
InvVax also expects to receive an investigational new drug (IND) approval around 2021.