Influenza

Controlling the Outbreak

Background

Influenza affects millions of people every year during the annual “flu season”. As influenza viruses infect and transmit between these millions of hosts, the virus undergoes continuous changes and mutations. Currently, the major influenza strains in circulation include the H1N1, H3N2, H5N1 and H7N9 subtypes. These strains differ in transmissibility (the ability of the virus to spread) and pathogenicity (the ability of the virus to cause disease). “Seasonal” influenza strains like H1N1 and H3N2 are generally highly-transmissible and relatively lowly-pathogenic, whereas “pandemic” or “avian” influenza strains like H5N1 and H7N9 are generally lowly-transmissible and highly-pathogenic. However, the constant mutations of the influenza virus sometimes lead to strains that are both highly-transmissible and highly-pathogenic, as was the case with the H1N1 flu of 1918. While “seasonal” influenza strains often only cause severe illness in the elderly and young children, all strains have the ability to affect people from all demographics.

An excessive release of pro-inflammatory cytokines is described as a “cytokine storm”. This immunological phenomenon has been implicated as a significant factor in the morbidity and mortality of many pandemic influenza victims. The cytokine storm can cause tissue damage and the accumulation of cell debris that can clog airways leading to decrease in lung function and pneumonia.

Currently, influenza illness is treated with antiviral drugs, which work to slow the production of the virus in the body. These treatments are most effective when started within the first 24 hours of illness, a time-point where symptoms of influenza infection may not yet be present. However, recent reports from the Cochrane Collaboration, the benchmark of unbiased high-quality medical treatment reviews, indicate that these antiviral treatments are not broadly-effective and in most cases, lead to a reduction in the length of sickness of less than 1 day.

As a result, there is significant demand for new influenza treatments, which are driven by the morbidity and mortality from infections and the identification of new influenza strains. Vaccines and antiviral drugs are both rendered less effective by variability of the influenza virus strain, thus demand is especially great for a treatment that is effective independent of the influenza strain. In contrast to the influenza virus, human physiology does not change quickly. Therefore, drugs that target the immune system to improve its ability to fight influenza infection are particularly appealing. New Amsterdam Sciences is actively developing such host-targeted treatments.

Products in Development

New Amsterdam Sciences is currently developing a novel, host-targeted influenza therapeutic. NAS was recently awarded a U.S. Army / CDMRP Discovery Grant to further research on NAS911’s ability to treat influenza. To date, NAS has observed efficacy in treating both seasonal and pandemic influenza strains, including H1N1, H3N2 and H5N1 in multiple different models. The company is currently exploring the burgeoning H7N9 strain, as well. This technology works independent of the influenza strain being tested and may offer a Universal Influenza therapeutic, which is the holy grail of Influenza treatment. By using funds from the Pandemic Influenza Emergency Supplemental Fund, BARDA is leading the nation toward the vaccine and antiviral stockpile goals for preparedness for pandemic influenza.

In addition to the influenza therapeutic product described above, NAS, hopes to continue testing NAS911 as a standalone drug and also as a co-therapeutic with market leader Tamiflu.

For additional information on the products being developed for this indication, please contact us.

 

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