UK group Acambis has kicked off the year with a good start, announcing encouraging results from a Phase I clinical trial and a preclinical challenge study of its candidate flu vaccine.

ACAM-FLU-A is a recombinant vaccine that targets M2e, a region found on all influenza type ‘A’ strains, regardless of mutations, which therefore may overcome the need for annual vaccine reformulations. Furthermore, as all pandemic flu strains are type ‘A’, the vaccine could offer protection against such outbreaks.

The Phase I trial of ACAM-FLU-A, which was conducted at multiple centres in the USA and involved 79 subjects, showed the vaccine to be well tolerated and able to generate an immune response, although this response was greatest when the vaccine was coupled with QS-21.

In addition, a preclinical study was conducted to test whether an M2e-based vaccine could protect against the Vietnam 2004 strain of H5N1 bird flu. Results were equally promising; while the virus was lethal in the placebo group, 70% of those vaccinated with the M2e-based vaccine were protected.

“These are exciting data as they show that our ACAM-FLU-A vaccine can generate a robust M2e antibody response, and that M2e-based vaccines can protect against H5N1 avian influenza,” commented Michael Watson, Acambis’ executive vice president, R&D. “We believe that these results confirm we have an approach worthy of further development,” he added.

Smallpox boost
Meanwhile, the group announced earlier this week that it has now delivered the entire 2.7 million doses of its ACAM2000 smallpox vaccine ordered by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last September.

Delivery had been scheduled for the first quarter of 2008 and, as a result, Acambis now expects to record total revenues of around £9.5 million in 2007.