Studies undertaken at The Pirbright Institute in collaboration with Inovio Pharmaceuticals have shown that a human antibody (2-12C) can provide pigs protection against the 2009 H1N1 pandemic strain of human influenza. This finding indicates that the antibody could also be effective at treating human influenza infections and demonstrates that the pig is an excellent model for assessing antibody therapies.
Having been successfully utilised for Ebola virus and respiratory syncytial virus, the use of antibodies to provide protection and reduce symptoms of influenza is an area of great interest. Although several influenza antibodies have progressed to clinical trials based on their success in small animals (ferrets and mice), the outcome has been disappointing as no antibodies have shown therapeutic effect in humans.
The team’s new research, published in the Journal of Immunology established that the 2-12C human antibody can neutralise the H1N1 2009 flu pandemic virus in pigs, thereby providing protection. Both the amount of virus and signs of infection in the lungs were reduced in pigs that received treatment.
Alongside testing the efficiency of 2-12C, the team also assessed a new antibody delivery method that works by administering the antibody genes to pigs. Once inside pig cells, the genes continuously generate antibodies, providing longer term protection than a single direct inoculation of antibodies. The team showed that this gene delivery method for 2-12C was able to protect pigs from signs of disease typically caused by H1N1.
The success of this antibody and delivery platform in the pig model indicates that these treatments could potentially also work in humans. Previous research by Pirbright showed that pigs are good models for influenza vaccine studies as they are naturally infected by the same subtypes of influenza viruses as humans, have similar immune systems and are more comparable in size and physiology than smaller animals.
Dr Elma Tchilian, Head of the Mucosal Immunology Group at Pirbright said: “We are very excited that the pig model is useful for testing and refining antibody treatments for life threatening influenza infections. I hope that research into many other infectious diseases will also benefit from this model.”
Notes to editors
This research was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
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About The Pirbright Institute
The Pirbright Institute is a world leading centre of excellence in research and surveillance of virus diseases of farm animals and viruses that spread from animals to humans. Based in the UK and receiving strategic funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), the Institute works to enhance capability to contain, control and eliminate these economically and medically important diseases through highly innovative fundamental and applied bioscience. With an annual income in excess of £35 million from grants and commercial activity, and a total of £12.6 million strategic investment from BBSRC during 2018-2019, the Institute contributes to global food security and health, improving quality of life for animals and people.
For more information about The Pirbright Institute see: www.pirbright.ac.uk
The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) is part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), a non-departmental public body funded by a grant-in-aid from the UK government.
BBSRC invests in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Our aim is to further scientific knowledge, to promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and to improve quality of life in the UK and beyond.
Funded by government, BBSRC invested £451 million in world-class bioscience in 2019-20.
We support research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people we fund are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Our investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.
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