Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research
Institute have signed a license agreement with Genentech, a wholly
owned member of the Roche group, and Roche, that grants the companies
exclusive rights to manufacture, develop, and market human monoclonal
antibodies to treat and protect against group 1 influenza viruses.
These viruses include the strains for the current seasonal and H1N1
influenzas. Genentech and Roche also have a non-exclusive right to
manufacture, develop, and market diagnostic tests for group 1 influenza.
The discovery of the antibodies was first reported
by Wayne A. Marasco, MD, PhD, associate professor of medicine at
Dana-Farber and Harvard Medical School; Robert Liddington, PhD,
professor and director, Infectious and Inflammatory Disease Center at
Sanford-Burnham; and Ruben Donis, PhD, chief of the Molecular Virology
and Vaccines Branch at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
in Nature Structural and Molecular Biology in February 2009.
They demonstrated that the newly identified antibodies attach to the
stem region of the viral proteins (hemagglutinin), rather than to the
head region, the standard target of current influenza vaccines. Binding
to the highly conserved stem region prevents changes in the protein that
are necessary for viral entry into the host cell, thereby inhibiting
further infection of host cells and the rise of escape mutants.
Standard influenza vaccines that consist of an attenuated, or killed,
virus typically stimulate antibodies against the protein's head. These
vaccines are less effective as the head region is prone to change,
leading to the rise of forms of the virus that can evade neutralizing
Complete terms of the agreement are not public, but Dana-Farber and
Sanford-Burnham will receive license fees and may receive milestone
payments and royalties.