Google invests in Oxford’s ‘universal’ flu jab

first_imgVaccitech’s new vaccine is set to be used as a complement to traditional vaccines, though not as a replacement.It is expected that the T-cells stimulated by the new vaccine, and the antigens stimulated by standard vaccines, would work together to provide comprehensive protection against the flu.Professor Hill acknowledged that “if one is flawed, the other will make up for it.”Dr Tom Evans, Chief Executive of Vaccitech, said: “When you look at the 250m people chronically infected with Hepatits B globally, or the number of people killed by the flu each year, it becomes clear just how much potential impact Vaccitech’s portfolio of vaccine products could have on the world.“Vaccitech is clearly well positioned to have an important impact on global health.”Vaccitech’s vaccine is currently in clinical testing, which will end in 2019. Vaccitech’s shot should be ready to launch in 2023.Evans says the date “may be more like 2024 or 2025.”Vaccitech intends to partner with a company manufacturing standard vaccines after the clinical trials are over.Evans told Reuters: “If we get positive data that shows we can affect rates of hospitalisation and illness with influenza then there is no question in my mind that a partner would take this on.”Professor Hill said that Vaccitech had attracted international interest, as “Google likes game-changers”.Google made its investment through its venture capital arm, Google Ventures (GV).Tom Hulme, General Partner at GV, said: “Vaccitech’s world class team have achieved an incredible amount with relatively little funding to date.“We look forward to it being applied to tackle multiple human diseases.”The company joins a handful of other contributors to offer funding, including investment firm Sequoia China and Oxford Sciences Innovation.The new funds will be used in part to conduct a 2000-person study in Oxford. Vaccitech was a finalist for the Best Start-Up Biotech Company Award at the OBN Annual Awards, which celebrate the UK’s “innovative life sciences”.In addition to this new flu vaccine, Vaccitech is working on new methods of treating prostate cancer, Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), Hepatitis B, and papillomavirus. Google has invested £20 million in Oxford University spinout company Vaccitech, which is working to develop a new “universal” flu vaccine.Vaccitech was founded in 2016 by Oxford professors Adrian Hill and Sarah Gilbert from the University’s famous Jenner Institute. The company seeks to solve issues encountered by traditional flu treatment.The new flu shot is set to be a “fundamental advance in flu vaccine design.”Professor Hill, head of Oxford University’s Jenner Institute, told Cherwell: “The harsh reality about flu vaccines is that they’re not hugely different than they were 50 years ago. They’re still mostly grown on eggs.”Standard vaccines create antibodies that seek out flu viruses based on proteins on its surface. However, these surface proteins change from strain to strain.Vaccitech’s new vaccine stimulates T-cells, part of the body’s immune system which identify the viruses by proteins on their interiors. “The vaccine doesn’t double [the T-cell count], it increases it tenfold,” said Hill.Unlike the surface proteins, the interior proteins hardly ever change. Hill notes that 95 per cent of flu viruses have these proteins, so the new shot is expected to be effective on nearly all strains of flu.For this reason, the vaccine has been described as “universal.”Vaccitech hopes to immunise patients against flu for more than a year. The World Health Organisation (WHO) currently commissions new strain-specific vaccines every February.But the WHO method has been criticised. The American Centre for Disease Control (CDC) alleges it only reduces the risk of getting the flu by 40-60%.last_img

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