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Collaboration brings forward potential broad flu cure

Published on 02/10/17 at 10:29am

A joint research effort between The Scripps Research Institute and Janssen has seen the development of a peptide that could be effective against most strains of flu.

The artificially created peptide molecules developed as part of the research were based upon recently discovered ‘super-antibodies’ that are able to fight nearly all influenza A strains. The aim was to create peptides that are much easier to produce and do not need to be delivered by injection, making treatment for less costly.

The peptides created were designed to similarly exhibit the antibodies ability to bind and neutralise the flu viruses. In particular, they bind to the hydrophobic stem groove on the lower part of the flu virus, an area that does not vary between fly strains.

“These peptides have drug-like stability and will be good candidates for further testing of antiviral efficacy in animal models,” said Rameshwar U. Kadam, a Senior Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Wilson Laboratory who is co-first author of the study along with Jarek Juraszek, Principal Scientist at Janssen.

He continued, “It's pretty revolutionary that we were able to use structural information on antibodies to make much smaller molecules that have almost the same binding affinity and breadth of neutralisation against flu viruses”.

The researchers have already examined whether the peptides are able to survive when introduced to blood, with enzymes often breaking down peptides once introduced. The results found that the peptide known as P7 in the experiment was able to survive for hours when introduced into human and mouse blood plasma.

The next step for research will be to determine how effective the peptides are at combatting the influenza virus in mouse models. In this round of research, it was observed that the peptides, due to their smaller size, were not as successful as antibodies in latching onto the flu virus.

However, researchers suggested that peptides may be able to make up for this by being able to target a broader range of the viruses, including group 1 and 2 influenza A, and potentially influenza B strains.

Ben Hargreaves

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