Jul 30, 2007 (CIDRAP News) – Acambis, a British biotechnology company, recently announced the launch of a phase 1 clinical trial of an influenza vaccine designed to provide a stable shield against seasonal and pandemic flu strains and eliminate the need to overhaul the flu vaccine each year.Known as ACAM-FLU-A, the vaccine is designed to target all influenza A virus strains, Acambis said in a Jul 17 press release. If successful, the product will mark a major step toward a universal flu vaccine—one that would protect against all strains of both influenza A and B. The majority of laboratory-confirmed flu cases each year in the United States are type A.The randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, multicenter trial will be conducted in the United States. Investigators will assess the vaccine’s safety, tolerability, and ability to generate an immune response in up to 80 healthy volunteers between ages 18 and 40, the company said.The trial will also assess the effectiveness of two adjuvants (immune-boosting chemicals): aluminum hydroxide, widely used in licensed vaccines, and QS-21 Stimulon, an investigational adjuvant licensed from Antigenics, Inc., according to Acambis.Michael Watson, Acambis’ executive vice-president for research and development, said in the press release that an effective universal vaccine will not require reengineering each time the virus mutates. Such a vaccine could be manufactured continuously, and people could be immunized any time of year.”It could be stockpiled in advance of a pandemic or potentially used routinely to ensure population protection against future pandemics,” Watson said, adding that Acambis hopes to see results of the study by the end of the year.Frequent minor changes in flu viruses involve two surface proteins, hemagglutinin and neuraminidase, represented by the H and N in virus names, such as H3N2. The two proteins allow flu viruses to enter host cells and then exit them after replicating. Because the H and N components are highly mutable, vaccine makers must adjust the flu shot components every year to match circulating strains.However, Acambis’s vaccine involves a more stable viral protein called M2, the ion channel protein. The company said the key component in its flu vaccine is M2e, the extracellular domain of M2, which is specific to influenza A. The hope is that M2e will produce an immune response against all influenza A stains, according to Acambis.ACAM-FLU-A is a recombinant vaccine that uses a hepatitis B virus core protein to deliver M2e, the company said.Acambis also said it is searching for a similarly conserved region on influenza B virus strains so that it can offer a vaccine that protects against all human seasonal flu strains.Universal influenza vaccines are under investigation by several other groups, including the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia and Dynavax Technologies in the San Francisco area, among others.Walter Gerhard, professor of immunology at the Wistar Institute, and colleagues wrote in an April 2006 Emerging Infectious Diseases (EID) article that the hope is that universal vaccines can replace current vaccines. But they wrote that even if universal vaccines only reduce, without preventing, clinical disease, they will still be an important adjunct to conventional vaccines, particularly for high-risk groups.Gerhard and colleagues wrote that, in the face of a major new flu variant, maternal antibodies generated by universal vaccines could give newborns some protection. Also, in elderly people a universal vaccine could induce memory B cells, which tend to be maintained into old age and can be recalled by booster vaccination, to generate protective antibodies. The article said the effectiveness of current vaccines depends heavily on “naïve” B cells, which frequently decrease as people age.”When all factors are taken into account, protection against influenza virus infection likely can be improved by a universal vaccine,” the authors wrote.See also:Aug 25, 2005, CIDRAP News story “Acambis hopes to build a flu vaccine that lasts”Apr 2006 EID article on prospects for a universal influenza vaccine
Vision Venture Partners – a private equity firm put together by Amit Raizada, Rick Fox (the owner of Echo Fox), and Stratton Sclavos – has announced the hiring of Mike Mossholder in the role of Chief Business Officer.Mike Mossholder, Vision Venture PartnersMossholder is the former Executive Vice President of Global Marketing Partnerships at the UFC and will use his experience in sports marketing and sales in an attempt to boost revenue and brand recognition for Vision Venture Partners through strategic partnerships. During his tenure at the UFC, Mossholder helped to facilitate the ten biggest deals in the company’s history and helped to grow its revenue. Raizada, Partner of VVP discussed Mossholder’s appointment: “With more than 20 years of experience in the sports and business world, Mike has an impressive history of expanding global franchises with innovative brand marketing. We are ecstatic to bring him onboard at VVP and look forward to utilizing his wealth of knowledge as we look to forge new opportunities for business expansion across VVP’s ever-growing portfolio – including Echo Fox, Twin Galaxies, Vision Entertainment, and more.”Mossholder discussed his new role in a statement: “After working with some of the biggest brand partners in my previous role with the UFC, I recognized that the next great opportunity to make an impact in a nascent sport is the burgeoning esports industry. I’m eager to continue building upon the infrastructure already established at VVP with the ultimate goal to drive unprecedented growth for the company.”Vision Venture Partners counts Vision Esports, Twin Galaxies, Echo Fox, HD Films, and Vision Entertainment as members of its portfolio.Esports Insider says: Bringing an executive over from sports into esports is nearly always beneficial for the industry, especially when they’ve proven their worth tenfold to a rapidly-growing sport such as MMA.