Emergex Vaccines Holding Limited, a biotechnology company pioneering a new approach to enable synthetic vaccine development in the field of infectious diseases, today announces that it has filed a patent in the USA for its novel pandemic flu vaccine.

generic influenza virion
3D influenza/CDC

The patent, entitled, ‘Reverse Peptide Vaccines’ covers the use of peptides derived from human influenza A, the most frequent influenza serotype and the cause of most major flu outbreaks.

The first recognized flu pandemic was in the summer of 1510 and there have been 15 flu pandemics over the last 500 years. Following the 1918 Spanish flu and despite the introduction of flu vaccines in the 1940s four further flu pandemics have occurred. Flu pandemics have always been preceded by flu outbreaks in animals which resulted in the introduction of a viral strain into the human population in which no herd immunity existed and human-to-human transmission was possible. These pandemic characteristics make the use of universal flu vaccines based on current circulating flu strains problematic for the prevention of novel pandemic flu strains entering the human population.

The 1918 Influenza Pandemic: A short history and lessons learned

The conserved human HLA-associated peptide fragments covered by this patent are unexpectedly coded by a non-coding strand of RNA conserved in all current human influenza A viruses, including the strain that caused the 1918 ‘Spanish flu’.

As these conserved HLA-associated peptide fragments are present in all human influenza A viruses, it suggests that they play a vital role in human-to-human viral transmission, a key requirement for the establishment of a new flu pandemic derived from circulating animal flu viruses. Mutation of current circulating non-human influenza A viruses and mutations enabling the machinery for the generation of these human HLA-associated peptide fragments could have a serious implication in causing a future human flu pandemic.

Professor Thomas Rademacher, co-founder, CEO and CSO at Emergex commented: “There is an urgent need for novel and innovative solutions that address the threat of a new global flu pandemic. We believe that our synthetic vaccines, combining several cutting-edge technologies could provide a solution.”

Emergex’s synthetic T-cell stimulating influenza vaccines incorporating these human and potentially pandemic-specific targets are currently in pre-clinical testing. On 14 May, Emergex announced that Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency, has awarded the company a grant of £979,318 to progress its universal flu vaccine programme through preclinical development.

In addition to developing its flu vaccine, Emergex is also developing a universal Flavivirus vaccine which is cross reactive against Zika, Dengue and Yellow Fever, and a universal Filovirus vaccine which is cross reactive against Ebola and Marburg virus.