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France’s National Research Agency Selects the OPTIVAC Project and Contributes €600,000 ($772,000) to Improve the Efficacy of Influenza Vaccines

publication date: Nov 11, 2014
 | 
author/source: Imaxio

The project is led by a consortium of three institutions based in Lyon, France: Imaxio, the VirPath laboratory at the Université Claude Bernard of Lyon and the International Center for Infectiology Research (CIRI)

The funding will accelerate the pre-clinical development of a candidate influenza vaccine with the aim of starting Phase I trials by 2017.

Imaxio, a biopharmaceutical company specialized in vaccines, today announces that it has been awarded funding of EUR 600,000 (USD 772,000) by the French National Research Agency (Agence Nationale de la Recherche, ANR) for the OPTIVAC project 'leveraging On t-cell immune resPonse To Improve influenza VACcines'.

The aim of the OPTIVAC project is to improve the efficacy of vaccines for seasonal influenza and current pandemics. To achieve this it will develop a candidate vaccine comprising a recombinant, proprietary and highly immunogenic version of the influenza virus nucleoprotein (NP).

The candidate vaccine from the OPTIVAC project will be administered in conjunction with current influenza vaccines with the aim of improving their efficacy, particularly in the elderly.

The consortium plans to use the funds received to complete preclinical development of the candidate vaccine within the next 24 to 36 months, entering Phase I clinical trials at the start of 2017.

The OPTIVAC project is led by a consortium from Lyon, France, comprising three specialist immunology institutions: candidate vaccine development specialist Imaxio; the VirPath laboratory at the Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1, which is specialized in the study of pathogenicity, the mechanisms of emergence of influenza viruses and the development of new therapeutic strategies; and the dedicated Immunity and Cytotoxic Lymphocytes (ICL) team at the International Center for Infectiology Research (Centre International de Recherche en Infectiologie, CIRI).

The ANR granted this funding under a highly competitive program, the 'Generic Call for Proposals', which funds research work that address major societal challenges. The agency received nearly 8,500 proposals (35 per cent in the health care category). Ultimately just 800 projects were selected, including OPTIVAC.

“The funding granted by the ANR is genuine recognition of what we have accomplished in collaboration with the teams from VirPath and the CIRI. It also reflects the quality of our research,” said Alexandre Le Vert, director of Imaxio. “We are confident in our IMX313 technology. This is an unprecedented opportunity to take our candidate influenza vaccine to the clinical stage over the next three years.”

“The ANR funding reflects the caliber and the significance of our project,” said Professor Bruno Lina, director of VirPath. “Vaccinating against influenza is a major public health challenge. Improving the cellular immune response after vaccination is a key objective. Thanks to this subsidy, our research project takes on a whole new dimension.”

“We are pleased to be part of such a consortium and contribute to the development of the IMX313 technology,” added Dr. Manuel Rosa-Calatrava, joint-director of VirPath. “The vaccine candidate has already generated positive preliminary results in our laboratory.”

“Securing this ANR subsidy means that we can now make rapid progress in characterizing cellular responses to the influenza virus,” said Dr. Jacqueline Marvel, leader of the Immunity and Cytotoxic Lymphocytes team at the CIRI (director: Dr. François-Loïc Cosset).

With 250,000 to 500,000 deaths recorded worldwide each year, there is a strong medical need to improve the formulations of current seasonal influenza vaccines, particularly in the elderly and for numerous strains of influenza, both seasonal and pandemic (such as swine and avian ’flu).

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that seasonal influenza epidemics result in three to five million serious cases every year. Hospital admissions and deaths occur mainly in high-risk groups (such as the elderly, those with chronic diseases and infants).


more about imaxio


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