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Blocking the Entry: Keeping Flu Out (2012)

NIAID-supported researchers at the biotech company NexBio in San Diego are developing a kind of drug called a fusion protein, which is designed to guard against multiple flu strains. If successful, not only would such a drug be a strong weapon to fight the seasonal flu, but it could be on standby in case of an outbreak of pandemic flu.

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 make them inaccessible by flu virus particles.

This fusion-protein drug, called Fludase, is formulated as an inhalant and 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, putting the drug just where it is needed to prevent infection.

With funding from NIAID, NexBio researchers completed studies to assess Fludase efficacy and safety in two kinds of animal models of flu. In 2012, the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) in the Department of Health and Human Services awarded NexBio a contract to further develop the drug candidate. Under the contract, the company will conduct a clinical trial in influenza-infected volunteers 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 clinical studies.

Last Updated March 12, 2013

Last Reviewed March 12, 2013