Blue Water Vaccines announced news of a potential agreement with the University of Oxford, allowing the company to exclusively license a novel universal influenza vaccine while simultaneously fundraising $15m to support the programme.
Developed by the University, the vaccine has been shown to possess the ability to potentially protect patients against all strains of influenza by targeting ribonucleic acid (RNA) regions of the virus that have limited variability. If successful, the technology would hold revolutionary medical status, providing a life-long immunity against infection.
Current influenza vaccines have been deemed insufficient in many ways as a method of protection against the virus, as the yearly required vaccinations typically only work in approximately 50% of individuals.
The scope of a universal flu vaccine
Illness caused by the respiratory influenza virus, known to most as the common flu, is an experience almost everyone will have during their life. Influenza can be fatal in those who are elderly, young, or immunocompromised from medication or disease, with approximately 500,000 deaths recorded annually (WHO, 2009). The last influenza pandemic, which was recorded in 1918, affected approximately 500,000,000 people, leading to more than 50,000,000 deaths globally (CDC.gov).
“Around ten years ago, we predicted that regions of the virus that were limited in variability would drive the evolution of influenza,” said Sunetra Gupta, Professor of Theoretical Epidemiology at the University of Oxford.
This hypothesis, which suggested that the target areas of the influenza virus only had a limited number of conformations, was proven by researchers in Professor Gupta’s team through mathematical and computational analysis. This makes the targets of the new vaccine ideal due to the ease with which immunity can be built up from the virus, which possesses little ability to evade a host’s immune response through mutation of these target domains.
Blue Water Vaccines aims to utilise the already established Escherichia coli-based production to reduce the cost and increase the efficiency of universal flu vaccine development. The vaccine is currently shown to be the most favourable candidate in the race for a flu vaccine that will protect everyone and potentially save millions of lives worldwide.