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FluGen, Startup Developing Universal Flu Vaccine, Raises $5.5M

Xconomy Wisconsin — 

FluGen, an early-stage company developing vaccine candidates designed to protect against multiple types of influenza, has raised $5.5 million in debt financing.

Twenty-five investors participated in the funding round, according to an SEC filing. Madison, WI-based FluGen has now raised more than $27 million from investors since launching in 2007.

In July 2016, FluGen initiated a Phase 1a clinical trial of its experimental universal influenza vaccine, known as RedeeFlu. The purpose of the study is to assess the safety of the vaccine, and to evaluate antibody and T-cell responses in participating patients.

Paul Radspinner, co-founder and CEO of FluGen, said in April that 96 patients were dosed with the RedeeFlu vaccine as part of the trial, and the company expected to have data on them later in the year. Radspinner did not immediately respond to messages sent on Tuesday seeking an update on the trial.

Successfully bringing a universal flu vaccine to market would be seen as a landmark achievement. A key benefit of such a vaccine would be its adaptability—it could protect against strains that vary from the predicted predominant strain (or strains) for a given flu season.

Each year, groups such as the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention forecast what they believe will be the predominant strains for the coming flu season. Vaccines are then designed protect against those strains.

In 2014 and 2015, predictions by health agencies in the U.S. and other countries were off the mark, Radspinner has said previously. As a result, flu vaccines distributed those years were less effective than they could’ve been.

While health agencies’ forecasts were more accurate last year, recent studies have found that vaccination only lowers the risk of flu illness by 50 to 60 percent, even when the vaccine is well-matched to the prevailing viral strains that year. FluGen’s mission is to bring that figure closer to 100 percent.