A biotech out of Oxford is developing a vaccine to fight every type of flu

Oxford University spin-out company Vaccitech says the vaccine takes a novel approach

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 06 February, 2018, 11:34am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 February, 2018, 11:34am

A biotech spun out of Oxford University is aiming to develop a universal flu vaccine — and phase 2 trials could be completed by the end of next year.

The company, Vaccitech, says the vaccine — unlike those now found on the market — does not target surface antibodies. Instead, it works from the centre of the virus where there are few components which can change the virus strain.

“It should protect people against pandemic strains and that would be hugely valuable to have,” Vaccitech co-founder Adrian Hill told CNBC on Friday.

The company’s approach to the flu is different from what many vaccine manufacturers have adopted, Hill said, adding that he hopes any Vaccitech success will make pharmaceutical giants take an interest and get involved.

Vaccitech’s strategy has not been tested to work against the flu before, but Hill said his company has started trials involving thousands of people.

The tests mark the first time that a universal flu vaccine has progressed beyond phase 1 clinical testing and Vaccitech aims to complete phase 2B testing by the end of next year, he said.

Recently, the biotech start-up raised 20 million pounds (about US$28 million) from investors including GV, the venture capital arm of Google parent Alphabet .

Vaccitech is also targeting two viruses that cause cancer — the human papillomavirus (HPV) and the hepatitis B virus.

“We are developing new vaccines again targeting cellular immunity that will go into the clinic in the next year or so to tackle those virus,” Hill said.

HPV is known to cause cervical cancer and the hepatitis B virus infects hundreds of millions of people in Asia alone and is a major cause of liver cancer.

“If the cellular immunity approach works, there are a lot of potential targets,” Hill said. “There are infections like HIV, where you can make a therapeutic HIV vaccine.”

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