The French biotech Osivax has advanced in the race to develop a universal flu vaccine, raising €8M to achieve clinical proof-of-concept.
Osivax will use most of the funding to progress its lead candidate vaccine towards market approval. Targeting all strains of influenza A viruses, the vaccine is currently in a phase I trial, with results expected later this year. In addition, the money will fuel the development of a preclinical candidate vaccine which could immunize against all strains of both type A and B influenza viruses.
Influenza vaccines normally target molecules on the surface of the virus. These molecules are prone to mutations, meaning that different vaccines are needed every year to adapt to those changes. Osivax’s tactic is to target molecules inside the virus, which mutate far less often and are similar across multiple strains of influenza viruses.
Osivax’s universal flu vaccine could avoid the need to predict which flu strains will surface each season, which isn’t always accurate. “Sometimes the strain predictions are wrong and the resulting vaccines ineffective for the upcoming flu season,” Alexandre Le Verte, CEO and co-founder of Osivax, told me. “Our lead candidate would eliminate this revisiting process, saving valuable time and resources while providing efficient preventative care.”
There are other companies also chasing a universal flu vaccine, including the UK biotech Vaccitech. Vaccitech is testing its universal vaccine for influenza A made from modified viruses in a phase IIb trial. According to Le Verte, Osivax’s technology is different from that of its competitors as the company constructs virus-like particles out of the vaccine antigen, which are better at being recognized by the immune system and eliciting a response.
Although vaccines have been around for a long time, investors and biotech companies are gaining interest in the field as different technological advances, such as DNA sequencing, make it easier to develop new treatments. The commercial success of several blockbuster vaccines in the last decade, such as for shingles and pneumococcal infections, is also increasing this interest.
“A more potent flu vaccine capable of providing better protection across existing and emerging flu viruses would have … blockbuster-like potential,” Le Verte said.
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