Universal flu vaccine that could improve response to deadlier strains raises $26M

At this time of year, notifications of free flu vaccines are as plentiful as leaves   on the ground and pre-Christmas sales. But a biotechnology company is developing a monoclonal antibody for a universal flu vaccine that could not only cover the three most common seasonal strains the widely available flu vaccines protect against, but also more deadly strains like the H1N1 variation.

More importantly, Visterra’s VIS410 vaccine has the potential to eliminate the rush to develop treatments against these more powerful strains and the inevitable supply and distribution concerns in the middle of a pandemic.

In its Series A financing round it added $13 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Omega Fund along with existing investors Polaris Venture Partners, Flagship Ventures and Lux Capital, according to a company statement. It closed the financing round with $26 million.

The company’s lead treatment is expected to enter clinical development in the next two years. The investment will be used to develop the company’s technology platform and advance its infectious disease pipeline.


Earlier this fall the Cambridge, Massachusetts company signed its first collaboration agreement  with a pharmaceutical company — Pfizer (NYSE: PFE) to develop antibodies using Visterra’s technology platform. Under the terms of the agreement the biotech company got an up-front fee and will get additional payments tied to meeting certain milestones.  The company was founded by MIT professor Dr. Ram Sasisekharan, a biomedical engineering professor at MIT and director of the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences & Technology.

[Photo Credit: piyaphontawong]

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