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Fighting Back: New Drugs Against Flu

The traditional advice for treating flu—bed rest and fluids—works quite well in most cases. For the elderly, the very young, and people with chronic illness, however, flu and its complications can be life threatening. While several drugs exist to treat flu, they must be taken within 48 hours of the start of the illness. NIAID grantees are exploring ways some futuristic technologies might lead to better flu drugs.

Blocking the Entryways

The biotech company NexBio in San Diego, California, is developing a kind of drug called a fusion protein, which is designed to guard against multiple flu strains.

Before it can cause disease, the flu virus must first enter a human cell. To enter, the virus passes through a gateway (receptor) on the cell's surface. NexBio is developing fusion proteins that disable receptors located on cells in the airway passages to render them inaccessible by flu virus particles.

Investigators at NexBio are currently developing this fusion-protein drug, called Fludase, so that—as an inhalant—it can be applied to the upper airway surface for both prevention and treatment of flu viral infections. Whereas most inhalants are systemic drugs that enter the bloodstream and travel throughout the body, Fludase sticks onto the surfaces of the respiratory tract, allowing the drug to function only in the desired areas.

NexBio has successfully completed studies to assess Fludase efficacy and safety issues in two animal models. In 2012, the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) in the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) awarded NexBio a contract to further develop their drug. Under the contract, the company will conduct a clinical study in influenza-infected patients to demonstrate safety and efficacy of the drug as proof-of-concept for this unique mechanism of action. The contract also supports design of later pivotal clinical studies.

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Last Updated June 04, 2013