Humabs Discovers the First Antibody to Neutralize both Group 1 and Group 2 Influenza A Viruses

Published: Jul 28, 2011

BELLINZONA (Switzerland) – July 28, 2011 – A paper published today in the scientific research journal Science, describes a novel, proprietary monoclonal antibody (FI6) discovered in a collaboration between Humabs BioMed SA, the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (“IRB”) and the UK Medical Research Council (MRC). FI6 is the first neutralizing antibody that targets all 16 hemagglutinin subtypes of influenza A and represents an important development in the treatment of severe cases of flu, and in finding a universal flu vaccine. The paper also discusses Humabs’ high throughput method of selecting rare antibodies from cultured plasma cells.

Historically it has been difficult to isolate monoclonal antibodies from plasma cells because they do not proliferate or express antibodies on their surface. Using the Humabs’ proprietary technology platform, the researchers were able to culture single plasma cells in vitro, and screen hundreds of thousands of plasma cells in order to isolate the rare ones which produced an antibody of unique specificity.

FI6 is the only antibody that has been discovered to date that binds and neutralizes both Group 1 and Group 2 human and animal influenza A viruses. When used prophylactically or therapeutically FI6 protected mice and ferrets from infection by influenza A virus using multiple mechanisms. Thus FI6 represents a promising drug for prevention and treatment of all influenza virus infections

It is estimated that every year millions of people are infected with influenza A, of which a significant number of cases result in death. Influenza A is a quickly evolving virus and the human antibody response is effective against few strains belonging to two (H1 and H3) of the 16 subtypes. New vaccines are developed each year to match these strains; a universal vaccine that could be used every year would be a significant improvement and could help save thousands of lives.

Humabs is in discussions with potential partners to take the antibody into the next stage of development.

Professor Antonio Lanzavecchia, Chief Scientific Officer of Humabs and Director of the IRB, commented: “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, at the Medical Research Council National Institute for Medical Research, added: “It is estimated that every year millions of people are infected with influenza A viruses 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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Article reference:

Science: 12 August 2011, Volume 333, #6044

“A neutralizing antibody selected from plasma cells that binds to Group 1 and 2 Influenza A hemagglutinin subtypes”

Authors: Davide Corti1,2*, Jarrod Voss3*, Steven J. Gamblin3*, Giosiana Codoni1*, Annalisa Macagno1, David Jarrossay1, Sebastien G. Vachieri3, Debora Pinna1, Andrea Minola1, Fabrizia Vanzetta2, Chiara Silacci1, Blanca M. Fernandez-Rodriguez1, Gloria Agatic2, Siro Bianchi2, Isabella Giacchetto-Sasselli1, Lesley Calder3, Federica Sallusto1, Patrick Collins3, Lesley F. Haire3, Nigel Temperton4 , Johannes P.M. Langedijk 5§, John J. Skehel 3† and Antonio Lanzavecchia1,6†

1 Institute for Research in Biomedicine, Bellinzona, 6500, Switzerland

2 Humabs BioMed SA, Bellinzona, 6500, Switzerland

3 Medical Research Council (MRC), National Institute for Medical Research, The Ridgeway, Mill Hill, London NW7 1AA, UK

4 Viral Pseudotype Unit, School of Pharmacy, University of Kent, Kent, United Kingdom

5 Pepscan Therapeutics BV, Lelystad, 8243 RC, Netherlands

6 Institute of Microbiology, ETH Zürich, 8032 Zürich, Switzerland

*These authors contributed equally to this work.

§Current address: Crucell Holland BV, Leiden, The Netherlands.

†To whom correspondence should be addressed:


About Humabs BioMed SA

Humabs BioMed is a privately owned Switzerland-based company that has been discovering and developing next-generation fully human monoclonal antibodies using proprietary platforms. These platforms have been developed within the Institute for Research in Biomedicine led by Professor Dr Antonio Lanzavecchia. Humabs is focusing on the creation of distinct antibodies to fight infectious and inflammatory diseases for development through pharmaceutical partners.

About the Medical Research Council

For almost 100 years the Medical Research Council has improved the health of people in the UK and around the world by supporting the highest quality science. The MRC invests in world-class scientists. It has produced 29 Nobel Prize winners and sustains a flourishing environment for internationally recognised research. The MRC focuses on making an impact and provides the financial muscle and scientific expertise behind medical breakthroughs, including one of the first antibiotics penicillin, the structure of DNA and the lethal link between smoking and cancer. Today MRC funded scientists tackle research into the major health challenges of the 21st century.

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