Vaxart develops H7N9 vaccine

Vaxart announced on June 13 a successful preclinical trial of an oral H7N9 avian influenza vaccine just 20 days after receipt of the virus's gene sequence.

The vaccine the privately-held pharmaceutical company developed induces strong hemagglutinin titers to combat the avian flu virus, which caused 37 deaths out of 132 cases since April, as reported by the World Health Organization.

"This result confirms that the Vaxart platform is capable of generating potent and immunogenic vaccines against newly emerging influenza strains in record time" Associate Director of Research for Vaxart Ciaran Scallan said. "The ability to respond rapidly is particularly important when a new virus shows high morbidity and potential for pandemic spread as H7N9 does."

Vaxart researchers downloaded the gene sequence from the GISAID EpifluTM Database. The sequence was submitted on the site shortly after the initial outbreak by Dr. Jun Li of the Hangzhou Center for Disease Control in Hangzhou China.

"By constructing our vaccines recombinantly and manufacturing them in high-yield production systems we don't need the influenza virus itself and can respond to emerging pathogens much faster than traditional influenza vaccine manufacturers that rely on eggs for production" Vaxart CEO Wouter Latour said. "As icing on the cake our room-temperature stable vaccine tablets will greatly simplify and accelerate distribution. In the event of a pandemic threat vaccines could even be distributed through the mail for self-administration at home."