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In pursuit of a universal flu vaccine
NEW YORK—Blue Water Vaccines, Inc. announced today that the company has entered into an option agreement with the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, providing Blue Water Vaccines the option to exclusively license a novel and potentially revolutionary universal influenza vaccine. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed. Blue Water Vaccines will complete its fund-raising of US $15 million to support the flu vaccine program.
“This paradigm shifting technology has the potential to save the lives of millions of patients around the world who fall victim to influenza infections. We look forward to working and supporting the amazing team at Oxford to bring this technology to patients around the world,” said Joseph Hernandez, Executive Chairman of Blue Water Vaccines.
Developed by scientists at Oxford University and published in Nature Communications in 2018, the vaccine protects against all influenza strains by targeting parts of the virus that induce a protective immune response but are also limited in variability. The technology has the potential of providing life-long immunity against the flu.
Influenza is a major respiratory pathogen. It’s estimated that there are over 500,000 deaths per year caused by the flu. The current influenza vaccines have serious shortcomings since they need to be administered yearly, and typically provides protection to only 50% of the individuals who receive it.
Sunetra Gupta, Professor of Theoretical Epidemiology at the University of Oxford noted, “About 10 years ago, we predicted that regions of the virus that were limited in variability would drive the evolution of influenza. Using mathematical models, we showed that these regions would cycle between a limited number of conformations in time, in tandem with the development of immunity within the human population. Due to their limited variability and the ease with which immunity can be built up against them, such regions make ideal vaccine targets.”
“These regions have been recently identified and shown by our lab to dictate immunity to influenza in various age groups of humans,” added Craig Thompson, Postdoctoral Research Scientist in Virology at the University of Oxford. “Astonishingly, laboratory assays used to detect antibodies showed that young children aged 6 to 12 had immunity to historical influenza strains that they could never have possibly experienced, one of which last circulated in 1934!”