Imaxio, a French biopharmaceutical company specialized in vaccines, has been awarded funding of $772,000 by the French National Research Agency (Agence Nationale de la Recherche, ANR) for the OPTIVAC project “leveraging On t-cell immune resPonse To Improve influenza VACcines.”
The aim of the OPTIVAC project is to improve the efficacy of vaccines for seasonal influenza and current pandemics. It will develop a candidate vaccine comprising a recombinant, proprietary and highly immunogenic version of the influenza virus nucleoprotein.
The candidate vaccine from the OPTIVAC project will be administered in conjunction with current influenza vaccines with the aim of improving their efficacy, particularly in the elderly. The consortium plans to use the funds received to complete preclinical development of the candidate vaccine within the next 24 to 36 months, entering phase I clinical trials at the start of 2017.
The OPTIVAC project is led by a consortium from Lyon, France, comprising three specialist immunology institutions: candidate vaccine development specialist Imaxio; the VirPath laboratory at the Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1, which is specialized in the study of pathogenicity, the mechanisms of emergence of influenza viruses and the development of new therapeutic strategies; and the dedicated immunity and cytotoxic lymphocytes team at the International Center for Infectiology Research (Centre International de Recherche en Infectiologie, CIRI).
The ANR granted this funding under a highly competitive program, the Generic Call for Proposals, which funds research work that address major societal challenges. The agency received nearly 8,500 proposals (35% in the health care category). Ultimately just 800 projects were selected, including OPTIVAC.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that seasonal influenza epidemics result in three to five million serious cases every year. Hospital admissions and deaths occur mainly in high-risk groups (such as the elderly, those with chronic diseases and infants).