The European Investment Bank (EIB) and BiondVax Pharmaceuticals Ltd., a developer of a universal flu vaccine candidate, said they have reached an €20 million ($22 million) loan agreement that will help the Israeli firm bring its vaccine closer to market.
The aim of the loan is to help BiondVax “develop a more universal vaccine, effective in preventing a range of different types of flu,” said Carlos Moedas, European commissioner for research, science and innovation, said in a joint emailed statement. As the flu virus changes, “we need to develop new ways to combat the disease.”
Flu viruses mutate frequently and unpredictably. Since it is impossible to predict future mutations, current flu vaccines may target strains that are not represented in the current wave of influenza. Mainly due to vaccine-virus mismatch, current flu vaccine effectiveness is on average only about 40% in the general population, and in elderly people as low as 9%.
In addition, current vaccines take about 4 to 6 months to produce, and a new one must be produced each year. So when a mismatch is identified at the beginning of the flu season, there is insufficient time to make a new vaccine for that specific season.
Seasonal flu causes high social and economic burdens to patients, their families, and health care providers. According to the Influenza Specialist Group, the flu causes on average 3,500 deaths, about 18,000 hospitalisations and 300,000 GP consultations in Australia each year.
BiondVax’s M-001 vaccine candidate is designed to protect against current and future, seasonal and pandemic flu strains. The Israeli firm isolated nine linked sections from three proteins found in nearly all strains of flu discovered over the past 75 years.