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Antibody increases potential for universal flu therapeutic


A new monoclonal antibody has been discovered, which may pave the way for the first universal flu therapeutic, according to a study published in Science.

F16, a novel, proprietary monoclonal antibody, was discovered during collaboration between Humabs BioMed SA, the Institute for Research in Biomidince (IRB) and the UK Medical Research Council (MRC).

The neutralising antibody is the first of its kind to target all 16 haemagglutinin subtypes of influenza A, binding and neutralising both Group 1 and 2 human and animal viruses

By selecting rare antibodies from cultured plasma cells, researchers were able to culture single plasma cells in vitro and screen hundreds of thousands of plasma cells to isolate rare ones producing an antibody of unique specificity.

Professor Antonio Lanzavecchia, Chief Scientific Officer of Humabs and Director of the IRB, said:

“The high prevalence of seasonal influenza and the unpredictability of new pandemics highlights the need for better treatments that target all influenza viruses.

“As the first and only antibody which targets all known subtypes of the influenza A virus, FI6 represents an important new treatment option and we look forward to taking it through to the next stage of development.

“Furthermore, our proprietary antibody isolation platform is delivering a number of high quality, preclinical antibodies, and we are building a strong pipeline in infectious and inflammatory diseases.”

Sir John Skehel, from the Medical Research Council National Institute for Medical Research, said the drug may become an ‘invaluable asset’.

“It is estimated that millions of people are infected with influenza A viruses every year,” he said, “and, although the majority of infections are mild, those in vulnerable groups, such as the very old or the very young, may be worse affected and more likely to die or be hospitalised.

“As we saw with the 2009 pandemic, a comparatively mild strain of influenza can place a significant burden on emergency services. Having a universal treatment which can be given in emergency circumstances would be an invaluable asset.”

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