New antibody advances search for universal flu vaccine

Researchers have discovered an antibody - FI6 - that is the first neutralizing antibody to target all 16 hemagglutinin subtypes of influenza A and represents an important development in the search for a universal flu vaccine.
The paper was a collaboration between Humabs BioMed SA, the Institute for Research in Biomedicine and the U.K. Medical Research Council. The paper, published in the scientific research journal Science, also highlights Humabs' high throughput method of selecting rare antibodies from cultured plasma cells.
Using Humabs' proprietary technology platform, researchers were able to culture single plasma cells in vitro and screen hundreds of thousands of plasma cells to isolate the rare ones that produced specific antibodies that bypassed the historical difficulty of such a process.
FI6 was found to bind and neutralize both Group 1 and Group 2 human and animal influenza viruses. In an experiment, it was used to protect mice and ferrets from infection by influenza A virus. It represents a promising drug for prevention and treatment of all influenza virus infections.
"The high prevalence of seasonal influenza and the unpredictability of new pandemics highlights the need for better treatments that target all influenza viruses," Professor Antonio Lanzavecchia, the chief scientific officer of Humabs and the director of the IRB, said. "As the first and only antibody which targets all known subtypes of the influenza A virus, FI6 represents an important new treatment option and we look forward to taking it through to the next stage of development. Furthermore, our proprietary antibody isolation platform is delivering a number of high quality preclinical, antibodies and we are building a strong pipeline in infectious and inflammatory diseases."