The expected summer lull has seen H7N9 activity slow dramatically, but health authorities fear it will return in China and possibly beyond as temperatures cool. If this happens, the advancement of vaccines should strengthen the ability of healthcare systems to protect people.
In the past week three manufacturers have reported progress in developing a vaccine to protect against H7N9. Taiwan is the one country outside of China to experience a case of H7N9, and the urgency of its vaccine preparations reflect its precarious position on the border of the virus' range. Leading Taiwanese vaccine manufacturer Adimmune has already completed Phase III trials, The China Post reports, and expects to make an H7N9 jab available imminently. Adimmune Chairman Steve Chan had hoped the vaccine would be ready by the end of May, but the timeline slipped slightly.
Despite delays, the completion of Phase III trials still puts Adimmune at the forefront of H7N9 vaccines, though. In the U.S., Novavax ($NVAX) and Inovio Pharmaceuticals ($INO) are both racing to bring a jab to market. At the start of the week Novavax reported that it has begun enrollment for a Phase I trial of its monovalent viruslike particle (VLP) H7N9 vaccine. Novavax CEO Stan Erck said the trial comes exactly three months after the gene sequence was obtained. Erck expects to report top-line results from the trial later this year.
Inovio, meanwhile, has presented data showing that its H7N9 vaccine protected 100% of animals in preclinical tests. The 10 mice given the vaccine remained healthy after being given a lethal dose of H7N9, while the control group showed symptoms including 30% weight loss and died within 8 days. T cell responses and hemagglutination inhibition-based protection were seen in the mice that received the vaccine.