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European Commission unveils new research projects to fight influenza

Brussels, 9th March 2010

Annexes - Details of new influenza research projects announced today

ESNIP 3 - European surveillance network for influenza in pigs (ESNIP) 3
This ESNIP 3 project will maintain and expand the surveillance network for influenza in pigs established during the previous EU funded projects ESNIP 1 and ESNIP 2 which represented the only organised surveillance network of this kind. ESNIP 3 aims to increase the knowledge of the epidemiology and evolution of swine influenza virus in European pigs through organised field surveillance programmes. Virus strains will be subjected to detailed antigenic and genetic characterisation. A strong focus will be monitoring spread and independent evolution of pandemic H1N1 2009 virus in pigs. All these data will in turn be used to improve the diagnosis of swine influenza. The virus bank and electronic database that were established during ESNIPs 1 and 2 will also be expanded. ESNIP 3 will seek to strengthen formal interactions with human and avian surveillance networks previously established in ESNIP 2. The project is expected to contribute to improved pandemic preparedness and planning for human influenza and provide an evidence base for decisions in relation to veterinary health.

Duration: 36 months
Expected EU contribution: €1 million
Coordinator: Ian Brown, Veterinary Laboratories Agency (United Kingdom), i.h.brown@vla.defra.gsi.gov.uk.
Contact for the press: Jane Goodger j.goodger@vla.defra.gsi.gov.uk
25 Partners from 15 countries: United Kingdom, Belgium, France, Italy, Denmark, Poland, Spain, Germany, Finland, Hungary, The Netherlands, Greece, Israel, China and the United States.

FLUPIG - Pathogenesis and transmission of influenza virus in pigs
This project aims at a better understanding of the role of pigs in influenza pandemics. Pandemic influenza viruses come from wild birds, but they must adapt to efficient replication and transmission in humans to cause a pandemic. Pigs are considered important intermediate hosts in which avian viruses adapt to mammals before they transmit to humans. However, the exact role of pigs is unclear, as is the nature of the genetic changes that are required for (a) efficient replication of an avian virus in pigs, (b) efficient transmission of avian viruses between pigs and (c) virus transmission from pigs to humans and between humans. The FLUPIG consortium will examine both the role of adaptive mutations and genetic reassortment. It will study the extent of cross-protection between antigenically different influenza viruses of the H1N1 subtype and between influenza viruses belonging to different haemagglutinin subtypes. Partners of the projects will be able to give advice to public health authorities about the role and risk of the pig in the emergence of novel influenza viruses in the human population. Combined with improved surveillance for influenza in animals, effective vaccines and antivirals, this knowledge will be critical to the control of future influenza pandemics.

Duration: 48 months
Expected EU contribution: €5 million
Coordinator: Kristien van Reeth, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Ghent University, (Belgium), kristien.vanreeth@ugent.be
10 Partners from 8 countries: Belgium, Italy, United Kingdom, Germany, The Netherlands, Poland, Hong-Kong-China and the United States.
 

FLU-PHARM - New drugs targeting influenza virus polymerase
The 2009 H1N1 pandemic and the ongoing threat of highly pathogenic H5N1 strains have focused attention worldwide on the urgent need for effective anti-influenza drug options when the public is not protected by vaccination. The need is pressing since several circulating strains are resistant to currently stock-piled anti-neuraminidase drugs. The project FLU-PHARM will exploit recent advances in the detailed understanding of the structure and function of the viral polymerase, the replication machine of the virus, to develop new drug candidates that inhibit viral replication in infected cells (by targeting the PB2 and PA protein domains). Such drugs are expected to have a reduced risk for developing resistance and lower undesirable side-effects. The polymerase is an excellent drug target as it is highly conserved in all influenza A strains, whether of avian, swine or human origin. The research team includes several of the most respected influenza virus research groups in structure/function/pathogenesis associated with the influenza virus polymerase, including the groups that have generated the most recent X-ray structures of the polymerase domains, an important achievement from another EU-funded project, FLUPOL.If successful, FLU-PHARM will provide new opportunities to treat both seasonal and pandemic flu, including the currently circulating swine origin H1N1 and highly pathogenic H5N1 (avian origin) strains. It can thus have an enormous impact on world-wide public health and well-being as well as on the competitiveness of the European pharmaceutical sector.

Duration: 42 months
Expected EU contribution: €6 million
Coordinator: Stephen Cusack, European Molecular Biology Laboratory (France) cusack@embl.fr
14 Partners from 7 countries: Germany, Austria, France, Spain, Slovakia, Belgium, Sweden


FLUCURE - Development of novel antiviral drugs against Influenza

Influenza viruses cause a highly contagious respiratory disease in both humans and animals. Vaccination is currently the primary means of controlling the spread of influenza virus infections but due to the virus’s notorious ability to mutate, new vaccines must be developed each year. There are a few antiviral drugs that are currently on the market; however, their therapeutic potential is restricted through rapid appearance of drug-resistant viruses during treatment, hence the need for novel effective drugs against influenza. The FLUCURE project aims at developing innovative, first-in-class therapeutics against human influenza by inhibiting protein-protein-interactions at the viral ribonucleoprotein complex (by targeting the PB1/PA proteins and NP proteins). This is the replication core of the virion, essential for influenza virus life cycle and a major contributor to viral virulence. The high level of conservation combined with slow mutation rates of the ribonucleoprotein complex should result in therapeutics with broad viral strain specificity associated with a reduced risk for developing resistance. FLUCURE will test and develop lead compounds from two successful EU-FP7 drug discovery projects, FLUINHIBIT and FluDrugStrategy. The final objective is to deliver one or more drug candidates suitable for entering clinical development within 4 years.

Duration: 48 months
Expected EU contribution: €6 million
Coordinator: Heather Marshall-Heyman, VIRONOVA AB (Sweden), heather.marshall-heyman@vironova.com
9 Partners from 7 European countries: Sweden, Switzerland, Bulgaria, The Netherlands, Lithuania, Germany, Italy

 

Detailed lists of participants

ESNIP 3 - European surveillance network for influenza in pigs (ESNIP) 3 

Participant Organisation Name

Country

Veterinary Laboratories Agency (Coordinator)

UK

Ghent University

Belgium

AFSSA- LERAPP

France

Instituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentaledella Lombardia e dell’Emillia Romagna

Italy

Technical University of Denmark

Denmark

National Veterinary Institute, Pulawy

Poland

Laboratorio Central Veterinario-Sanidad Animal

Spain

IDT Biologika Gmbh

Germany

Finnish Food Safety Authority

Finland

Kimron Veterinary Institute

Israel

Central Agricultural Office Veterinary Diagnostic Directorate

Hungary

Central Veterinary Institute of Wageningen UR

The Netherlands

University of Thessaly

Greece

Sanger Institute

UK

University of Cambridge

UK

University of Oxford

UK

Freidrich-Loeffler-Institut

Germany

Instituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale delle Venezie

Italy

St. Judes Research Hospital, Tennesse

USA

United States Department of Agriculture

USA

Harbin Veterinary Institute

China

Merial S.A.S - MSS

France

Laboraotorios Hipra, S.A. - Hipra

Spain

Animal Health Trust, Newmarket

UK

Agri-Food & Biosciences Institute

UK

 

FLUPIG - Pathogenesis and transmission of influenza virus in pigs

Participant Organisation Name

Country

Ghent University – U Ghent (Coordinator)

Belgium

Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale delle Venezie ISZVe

Italy

Imperial College London

UK

Veterinary Laboratories Agency - VLA

UK

Philipps University Marburg –UNIMAR

Germany

Erasmus Medical Center

The Netherlands

National Veterinary Institute

Poland

Hong Kong University

China

Kansas State University

USA

Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut 

Germany

 

FLU-PHARM - New drugs targeting influenza virus polymerase 

Participant Organisation Name

Country

EMBL (Coordinator)

Germany/France

Savira Pharmaceuticals GmbH

Austria

University Joseph Fourier, Unit for Virus Host Cell Interaction

France

Institut Pasteur

France

Universitätsklinikum Gießen und Marburg, Institut für Virologie

Germany

Heinrich-Pette-Institut für Experimentelle Virologie, Influenza Pathogenese

Germany

Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas

Spain

Prestwick Chemical Inc

France

Inte:Ligand Software-Entwicklungs und Consulting GmbH

Austria

Institute of Virology, Slovak Academy of Sciences

Slovakia

Advanced Technology Corporation, Academic Hospital of Liege, Institute of Pathology

Belgium

ChemCon GmbH

Germany

Medical University Vienna, General Hospital Vienna. Department of Clinical Pharmacology

Austria

iNovacia AB, Stockholm

Sweden

 

FLUCURE - Development of novel antiviral drugs against Influenza 

Participant Organisation Name

Country

Vironova AB (Coordinator)

Sweden

Beactica AB

Sweden

Pike Pharma GmbH

Switzerland

Albert–Ludwigs University/ Uniklinik Freiburg

Germany

Bulgarian Academy of Sciences

Bulgaria

Vrije Universiteit

The Netherlands

Institute of Biotechnology

Lithuania

Pharmacelsus GmbH

Germany

Università degli studi di Siena

Italy