As people in towns and cities across the U.S. feel the clammy grip of the flu epidemic, several biotechnology startups and Big Pharma companies are using innovative technology to develop different approaches to combating influenza and developing vaccines to combat multiple flu strains. Here are five of them:
Nasal spray: NanoBio Corp‘s flu vaccine is a nasal spray designed to offer short-term infection prevention and reduce transmission of the virus between humans. It uses nanoemulsion technology to develop a seasonal flu vaccine nasal spray. Currently in phase 2 development, the technology uses an oil-in-water emulsion to rapidly penetrate through pores and hair shafts to the site of an infection, and physically disrupt the outer membrane of pathogenic organisms by fusing with the invading flu virus and killing it before infection occurs. It would be used at times when there is a high risk of exposure such as air travel, a pediatrician’s office visit, hospital or any situation where groups of people congregate, according to the company’s website.
Combating more strains: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved GlaxoSmithKline’s quadrivalent vaccines last month. The vaccines contain two influenza A strains and two influenza B strains to potentially help broaden protection against seasonal influenza. It is approved for use in children 3 years of age and older. Current flu vaccines generally protect against three strains of influenza: two A strains and one B strain.
Universal vaccines: Biotechnology startup Visterra is developing a monoclonal antibody for universal flu vaccine VIS410 that could not only cover the three most common seasonal strains the widely available flu vaccines protect against, but also more deadly strains like the H1N1 variation.
Cross-strain protection: Inovio is developing a universal flu vaccine that would induce both preventive antibody and T-cell immune responses for cross-strain protection against known and new, unmatched viruses. It could be especially helpful for the elderly who are among those most vulnerable to contracting the flu. It is developing a seasonal flu vaccine as well as one that could combat a pandemic.
Egg alternative: One problem with flu vaccines on the market is that they are developed from fertilized chicken eggs, which makes them off limits to those with egg allergies. A new seasonal flu vaccine from Novartis using cultured animal cells won FDA approval in November. It will be marketed under brand name Flucelvax.