Acambis hopes to build a flu vaccine that lasts

first_imgAug 25, 2005 (CIDRAP News) – The British biotechnology firm Acambis recently announced its launching of a quest for the Holy Grail of influenza prevention: a vaccine that would protect people from the virus for many years and perhaps even stave off future pandemic strains.With current technology, flu vaccines have to be retooled every year in a time-consuming effort to cope with minor mutations that enable the flu virus to avoid quick detection by the immune system. But a vaccine based on parts of the virus that stay the same, instead of those that often change, could eliminate the need to bring out a new model every year.Acambis announced early this month that it was collaborating with Belgium’s Flanders Interuniversity Institute for Biotechnology (known as VIB) to replace the annual flu vaccine with a perennial one.”The aim of the research collaboration would be to generate a ‘universal’ vaccine candidate that would protect against both A and B strains of influenza and, more importantly, would not require annual changes to the formulation,” the company said in its Aug 4 announcement.The company hopes that such a vaccine could also protect people from a pandemic flu virus, which can arise from a major change, or “antigenic shift,” in viral components. With disease experts warning that the H5N1 avian flu virus could turn into a pandemic strain any day, that prospect is doubly attractive. However, availability of such a vaccine is, at best, years away—too far in the future to help combat any near-term pandemic.The frequent minor changes in flu viruses involve two of the virus’s surface proteins, hemagglutinin and neuraminidase, represented by the H and N in names like “H5N1.” Hemagglutinin and neuraminidase enable flu viruses to enter host cells and then exit them after replicating. Current vaccines target these highly mutable proteins, making it necessary to adjust the vaccines each year to match the circulating strains.Acambis’s vaccine effort focuses on a far less shifty viral protein, called M2. “A major component of the new [vaccine] candidates,” the company said, “will be M2e, the extracellular domain of the ion channel protein M2, which is specific to influenza A. Being highly conserved, M2e is intended to elicit protective immune responses against all strains of influenza A. M2e is incorporated in a unique carrier system that forms highly immunogenic virus-like particles.”Ashley Birkett, Acambis’s director of viral immunology in Cambridge, Mass., said the company is working on a separate technology for type B influenza. If the type A and B vaccines both prove effective, combining the two into one shot “would give us a truly universal vaccine,” he told CIDRAP News.The A type vaccine would potentially protect people against pandemic flu, since previous known pandemic strains were type A and future ones are expected to follow suit, Birkett said.”The advantage of this approach is that the manufacturing relative to the vaccine would be much easier,” he said. “It would be the same vaccine year after year.”Since the vaccine wouldn’t have to be changed each year, manufacturing could be continuous, instead of occurring each spring and summer after health officials pick the flu strains they think will prevail the following winter. With year-round manufacturing, people could be immunized any time of year, not just in the fall or winter, and vaccine could be stockpiled, Birkett said.Conventional production of flu vaccine involves growing whole copies of a weakened virus in chicken eggs (though several companies are working on growing flu viruses in cell culture). Acambis’s experimental vaccine is manufactured with a “recombinant bacterial fermentation technology,” in which bacteria are used to make selected viral proteins, rather than whole virus. “The bacteria can make single proteins for us,” Birkett said.With this technique, the production time for a batch of vaccine is “a matter of weeks,” as compared with about 6 months for egg-based vaccine, he said. “But the main difference is you’re going to be making the virus year-round. It really comes down to the fact that we don’t have to change the product,” he added.Acambis said its initial vaccine candidate is “in pre-clinical development” and has been tested successfully in animals. Two recent journal articles describe successful tests of various versions of the vaccine in mice.The reports, published in Virus Research and Virology, say that M2e generates only a weak immune response during flu infection and when used in a conventional vaccine. But when it is linked to an appropriate carrier, such as hepatitis B virus core (HBc) particles, it induces a strong antibody response. When various versions of the M2e-HBc combination were used with an adjuvant (a chemical that stimulates the immune system), they fully protected mice from a potentially lethal flu infection, the reports say.Work on the vaccine has already been going on for several years. Acambis said it acquired the vaccine from Apovia, a US biotechnology firm, earlier this year. Apovia started developing the vaccine in 2000, after licensing the technology from VIB, where Walter Fiers led the research on which the vaccine is based.Birkett said he couldn’t predict when the firm might launch clinical trials or how long it might take to bring the vaccine to licensing, but indications are it will be a lengthy effort.Theoretically, a perennial flu vaccine is a great concept, said Gregory Poland, MD, a vaccine expert at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.”One of the real problems we have is that each year, the vaccine is an educated guess,” Poland told CIDRAP News, referring to the problem of predicting which flu strains will predominate in a given season. “The other problem is getting large numbers of people to get a vaccine every year.”A single vaccine that would reliably fend off the shifty virus for years would eliminate both of those difficulties. “A flu vaccine that could be given once, twice, or periodically would be a grand slam,” said Poland, who is a professor of medicine in infectious diseases at the Mayo College of Medicine and directs the Mayo Vaccine Research Group and Program in Translational Immunovirology.But Poland was cautious in assessing the likelihood of success.”We need a proof of principle at this point,” he said. “There are a number of entities trying to develop a similar vaccine. I do think it’s theoretically possible. From an immunologic point of view, the key will be choosing the right antigen [viral protein] and knowing that the antigen is displayed early in the infection, so that an immune response can be generated early enough to abort the infection. My concern is if you find antigens that are displayed late in the infection, you may generate an immune response too late to do much good.”Birkett acknowledged that the experimental vaccine targets the virus later in its life cycle than conventional vaccines do. “But if you want a universal vaccine, you have to target a component that develops later in the life cycle,” he said.”It’s a totally new vaccine approach,” he said. “We’re confident, we’re hopeful, but until we do the [clinical] studies, we won’t know for sure [if the vaccine will work]. If it does work, it’ll be the Holy Grail. It could meet the need for influenza [protection] year after year.”Acambis is not the only organization pursuing a universal flu vaccine. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) is supporting efforts by several other researchers on the same problem.Andrew Pekosz of Washington University in St. Louis and David Milich of the Vaccine Research Institute in San Diego are working on a vaccine that, like Acambis’s, targets the M2 protein of the influenza A virus, according to an article on the NIAID’s influenza Web site.Because relatively few copies of the M2 protein are present on the outer coat of the virus, an M2-based vaccine made from a normal flu strain generates only a weak immune response, the article notes. Milich is addressing this problem by developing a “bulked up” M2 vaccine that contains 240 copies of the protein, which stimulates the production of more antibodies.Other researchers working on similar vaccines include Walter Gerhard at the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia and Gary Van Nest at the biotechnology company Dynavax, according to the NIAID. Gerhard’s vaccine targets the M2 protein, while Van Nest is using another viral protein, called NP.Poland predicts it will take years to bring a universal flu vaccine to market, if it can be done at all. “I wouldn’t hold my breath that we’re going to have a vaccine like this in the next couple of years,” he said. “I think proof of principle you could get in a couple of years. For licensure of a vaccine like that, the typical cycle is going to be somewhere in the 7- to 10-year horizon.” But he added that it might be possible to speed up the process, especially if the vaccine would be effective against a pandemic virus.See also:Aug 5 Flanders Interuniversity Institute for Biotechnology releasePubMed abstracts with links to full text of reports on M2e influenza vaccine:A ‘universal’ human influenza A vaccine (Virus Research 2004)Universal influenza A vaccine: optimization of M2-based constructs (Virology 2005)last_img read more

BBC commits £1.9bn in contributions to wipe out pension deficit

first_imgThe body, which is partly funded by a public TV-license fee, will now contribute £740m over the next four years, compared with the previous schedule of £375m.The schedule agreed at the 2010 triennial review would have seen the BBC contribute £675m between 2014 and 2021, but this will now rise to £1.2bn.By 2026, the end of the new schedule, the organisation will have contributed £1.96bn, aiming to remove the deficit completely.Despite the higher than expected return on the scheme’s assets, the trustees said market conditions were to blame.The fall in UK government bond yields since 2010 resulted in a £1.6bn addition to the deficit.Bill Matthews, chair of the trustees, said the scheme also agreed to add two years to its funding plan to reach self-sufficiency.He also said the trustees shifted the firm’s investment portfolio to provide greater certainty on returns and complement the scheme’s growing pensioner population.Since 2010, the scheme has reduced its equity holding by 18 percentage points, as it now accounts for 38% of holdings. This was in reaction to the increase in the number of pensioners by 3,800.Bonds now account for 31% of investments, compared with 22% in 2010, while the scheme has actively increased its allocation to alternatives, rising to 17% from 9%.The scheme was also only 53.1% funded on a buyout basis, with an additional £9.1bn required from the BBC to cover this.However, the trustees stressed the scheme had no plans to enter this arrangement.“Throughout the process, the trustees were conscious of the need to strike a balance that was both appropriate for members and did not undermine the BBC’s ability to support the scheme,” Matthews said.“I must stress that the scheme will continue to pay out benefits in line with its rules.” The BBC has been forced to double its contributions to its pension scheme after the triennial review revealed a sharp rise in the deficit.The BBC Pension Scheme, which has around 59,000 members including 22,000 pensioners, saw its deficit increase by £900m (€1.1bn) from 2010, hitting £2bn.The results of its 2013 triennial valuation now estimate its liabilities at £12.3bn, up by £3bn, compared with assets of £10.3bn, which also rose by £2.1bn.As a result, the schedule of contributions from the UK broadcaster to its pension scheme has now been ramped up.last_img read more


first_imgBrian “Dinky” Dorrian confident his side can get a positive result against Inishowen tonight.Manager of the Donegal League representative side Brian ‘Dinky’ Dorrian is quietly confident ahead of his side’s clash against their Inishowen counter-parts this evening.Donegal got their Oscar Traynor campaign off to a winning start last month when they defeated a Cavan/Monaghan select side and travel to Maginn Park full of confidence.Dorrian has a number of injury worries with Jason Noctor, Gary Crossan and Benny McLaughlin all struggling to be fit. Three players that definitely won’t make tonight’s fixture are Lee White, Shane O’Rourke and Paul Friel.White is playing for the Irish Army side in the European Championships in France next week and wasn’t released for tonight’s fixture.Dorrian has called up Milford’s Caolan McGettigan to deputize for White.O’Rourke is at college in Galway and can’t make it back for the match due to course work, while Friel has been re-located with work and is out of the county for the week. Dorrian told Donegal Daily, “Jason is a big, big doubt for the game, he’s got tendonitis in the knee and it’s touch and go whether he’ll make it.“He’s a huge player for us, and if he’s misses out, there’s no doubt it’s a blow, but we’ve got a strong squad.“Benny McLaughlin has the flu, but I’m hoping he’ll be OK, while Gary Crossan has a dead leg from the weekend and is really struggling to make it.“We tried to get Lee White, but the army wouldn’t release him for the game, while Shane O’Rourke and Paul Friel can’t get back for the game due to other commitments.Dorrian believes Inishowen have set the standard in this competition over the last number of years and consistently produced top sides. Donegal’s record against Inishowen in this competition is very poor, and they haven’t registered a win against their rivals in over a decade.However, Dorrian feels that record has to end sometime, and tonight could be the perfect opportunity to do it.Dorrian told Donegal Daily, “We played very well in our last match, we scored two good goals and dominated the game.“If we were more clinical, we would’ve been out of sight, but we weren’t and when they got scored late-on it set-up a nervy finish. “Inishowen are a top side, and we’re under no illusions as to how difficult a game it will be tonight, but we’re confident we can go there and get a result.“They lost their opener, so all the pressure is on them, they need a result, but as I’ve said, we’ve prepared properly for this and we’ve a good squad.“We’ve a pretty awful record against them, and I don’t think we’ve beaten them in over ten years, that’s something we want to put right, and it’s something we’re capable of doing.Former Finn Harps stars Matthew Crossan and Gary Merritt are the stand-out names for Donegal and Dorrian will hope the duo can be as influential as they were in their last outing a month ago.The game is at the superb Maginn Park, and the immaculate playing surface should suit two teams who like to play a good brand of football.The match kicks-off at 7.30pm in what is both sides second match in the Oscar Traynor group stage.BRIAN ‘DINKY’ DORRIAN CONFIDENT AHEAD OF CLASH WITH RIVALS INISHOWEN was last modified: November 19th, 2014 by Mark ForkerShare this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)Click to share on Telegram (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to share on Skype (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Tags:Brian ‘Dinky’ DorrianDonegal LeagueInishowen LeaguenewsOscar TraynorsoccerSportSt Catherineslast_img read more

Sean Harvey ACT – 2016 Nomination for Volunteer of the Year

first_imgSean commenced playing Touch Football in South Australia in 1981. In 1988, Sean moved to Canberra where he became a member of the Woden Eagles Touch Club. Since joining the club, Sean has made an invaluable contribution to the club’s sustainability through his leadership, integrity, professionalism, diversity and excellence.Sean has assisted TFACT’s competitions through his work with the Woden Eagles club by his continued involvement as a player, coach, referee and a key administrator since 1988.Sean has shown strong skills in both leadership and integrity through organising and managing six adult Woden Eagles teams to compete in the 2015/2016 TFACT Summer Domestic Competition and 2016 TFACT Winter Competition.During the summer competition, Sean also coached a junior team in the 2015 Junior Competition, while assisting other volunteers of the club to coach junior teams to maintain the club’s involvement at a junior level.His level of involvement at both a junior and senior level shows his commitment to the sustainability of the sport within the ACT.Sean has displayed his flexibility and willingness to be involved in multiple programs including being a coach in TFACT’s AusSquads Junior Development Program. He has assisted in the programs delivery since its inception in 2015.Sean is currently a general member of the TFACT Sport Operations Advisory Panel (SOAP) and has displayed professionalism in all aspects of his role. He makes timely and valued input both verbally and written in regards to all SOAP matters discussed and implemented.Sean has displayed excellence at a club level over the past year and for this he was awarded the Woden Eagles 2015 Volunteer of the Year. His excellence is not limited to his work at the club, however as he works with the TFACT staff to ensure the sustainability of all programs within the ACT and assists where he can especially in regards to refereeing and coaching.Sean has been an invaluable member of TFACT since 1988 with a positive and respectful attitude to all those he interacts with regardless of the role he is undertaking.last_img read more