Crucell won an NIAID contract potentially worth $69.1 million to develop mAbs against seasonal and pandemic flu. The project will focus on a set of human mAbs developed by Crucell using its MAbstract® technology.
The company claims preclinical studies have already shown that the antibodies protect against a range of distinct seasonal and pandemic viruses including seasonal H1N1 strains, the pandemic H1N1 swine flu strain, and avian H5N1 viruses.
Under terms of the contract, initial funding of up to $40.7 million may be increased by a further $28.4 million at the NIH’s discretion.
At the end of 2008 Crucell reported data from preclinical studies suggesting that its mAb flu candidate, CR6261, outperformed oseltamivir against a range of flu viruses including the H5N1 bird flu strain. The studies found CR6261 was 100% effective in preventing infection with H5N1 and when given after H5N1 infection, resulted in a 100% cure rate with no deaths. The data also showed that CR6261 provided immediate protection against the influenza virus, which the company points out is an important factor in preventing disease spread.
In Feburary 2009 Crucell and collaborators at the Scripps Research Institute went on to publish the results from x-ray crystallographic studies suggesting a mechanism of action for CR6261. The study, published in Science, suggested that the antibody attacks a site in the conserved region of the hemagglutinin protein that essentially stops the virus from binding with host cell membranes and blocks the virus from replicating.