Influenza

The influenza virus is one of the most common viral infections that occurs in the United States, with an estimated 25-50 million cases occurring each year. Despite routine vaccination, the 2014-2015 influenza season alone accounted for nearly one million influenza-related hospitalizations in the United States. Unfortunately, the rate of influenza infections in the United States is relatively low compared to other countries (Figure 1). Consequently, medical complications related to influenza account for an estimated 250,000-500,000 deaths annually worldwide.

Figure 1. Rate of severe influenza infection in children under 5 in 2010. Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3700032/

Unfortunately, the manufacturing limitations associated with influenza vaccines limit the coverage of seasonal vaccines to only a handful of strains that must be predicted months in advance. Therefore, potent therapeutics that can broadly treat breakthrough influenza infections are critical. The most commonly used therapeutics for influenza currently is Tamiflu®, which serves as an inhibitor of neuraminidase. However, there has been a documented increase in influenza strains that are resistant to neuraminidase inhibitors (i.e., avian influenza) that creates the need for alternative therapeutic strategies.

We are developing an RNA-based therapy for influenza that directs the immune system to inhibit the production of conserved influenza proteins while simultaneously triggering the influenza-specific inflammatory response. We are currently in the final stages of product scale-up and are preparing for IND-enabling CMC and animal studies.