Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute have signed a license agreement with Genentech, a wholly owned member of the Roche group, and Roche, that grants the companies exclusive rights to manufacture, develop and market human monoclonal antibodies to treat and protect against group 1 influenza viruses. These viruses include the strains for the current seasonal and H1N1 influenzas. Genentech and Roche also have a non-exclusive right to manufacture, develop and market diagnostic tests for group 1 influenza.
The discovery of the antibodies was first reported by Wayne A. Marasco, MD, PhD, associate professor of medicine at Dana-Farber and Harvard Medical School; Robert Liddington, PhD, professor and director, Infectious and Inflammatory Disease Center at Sanford-Burnham; and Ruben Donis, PhD, chief of the Molecular Virology and Vaccines Branch at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in Nature Structural and Molecular Biology in February 2009.
They demonstrated that the newly identified antibodies attach to the stem region of the viral proteins (hemagglutinin), rather than to the head region, the standard target of current influenza vaccines. Binding to the highly conserved stem region prevents changes in the protein that are necessary for viral entry into the host cell, thereby inhibiting further infection of host cells and the rise of escape mutants. Standard influenza vaccines that consist of an attenuated, or killed, virus typically stimulate antibodies against the protein’s head. These vaccines are less effective as the head region is prone to change, leading to the rise of forms of the virus that can evade neutralizing antibodies.
Complete terms of the agreement are not public, but Dana-Farber and Sanford-Burnham will receive license fees and may receive milestone payments and royalties.