Since early 2013, the newly emergent H7N9 avian influenza virus has been infecting humans in China, leading to the temporary closure of numerous poultry markets in a bid to control the outbreak. In recent weeks, the rate at which new cases are reported has been declining – but some experts are asking whether this is just the calm before the storm. The development of a vaccine against the virus is therefore still of great interest – but where are we with vaccine development?
Inovio Pharmaceuticals announced on July 8th that in a preclinical study of its influenza DNA vaccine, 100% of the vaccinated animals were protected against sickness and death when challenged with a lethal dose of A/Anhui/1/13 strain of H7N9 virus. On the same day, Novavax made an announcement that enrolment had begun for a Phase I clinical trial of its monovalent virus-like particle (VLP) vaccine candidate – again based on the A/Anhui/1/13 strain.
Also in the VLP mix is Canadian company Medicago, which last month announced it was "first in the world" to report positive interim results from a pre-clinical trial with its plant-made H7N9 vaccine candidate based on the isolate A/Hangzhou/1/2013. Two weeks ago, Vaxart announced that the company had successfully constructed and produced a recombinant H7N9 vaccine tablet in just 20 days, with the vaccine inducing robust anti-HA titres in preclinical testing.
The first step in vaccine development is to select a candidate vaccine virus (CVV), and a summary of available CVVs is available on the WHO website [last updated 25 May 2013].
What do you think? What other H7N9 vaccines are in development? You can leave a comment in the box below, or on LinkedIn group discussion. Want more from Vaccine Nation? Sign up to our newsletter for free here. If you want to know more about strategy and innovation in vaccines, you might be interested in attending the World Vaccine Congress Europe 2013, 16-17 October 2013, Lille.