University of Melbourne – Kanta Subbarao

The Novo Nordisk Foundation has awarded a grant of DKK 13,834,409 to Melbourne researchers to support the late pre-clinical development of a novel long-acting pan-influenza antiviral drug that will be accessible for people in low- and middle-income countries.

When an influenza pandemic arises, it is imperative to protect the vulnerable population while vaccines to the new strain are made and distributed. Countries address this by stockpiling antiviral drugs, yet these stockpiles can be rapidly depleted, particularly drugs requiring daily dosing over many days. Researchers from the University of Melbourne and the WHO Collaborating Centre for Reference and Research on Influenza will leverage a longstanding research relationship with Australian biotech company Aus Bio Ltd to tackle this challenge. Using a novel approach, Aus Bio scientists have created a compound that protects animals from lethal influenza infection for up to 40 days after just one intranasal dose and can also be used to treat animals after infection. These characteristics make it ideal for pandemic use. This grant will allow the team to explore the potential of their new drug candidate to counter a range of influenza viruses with pandemic potential and provide data to ultimately enable them to gain approval for testing in humans. The research group will be led by Kanta Subbarao, Ian Barr, Saira Hussain and the originators of the anti-influenza compound Wen-Yang Wu, Betty Jin, Paul Jones and Peter Jenkins of Aus Bio Ltd, along with their original scientific collaborators from the University of Melbourne Lorena Brown and Charley Mackenzie-Kludas. The project is hosted at the Doherty Institute and will run for two years, commencing in 2024.

Picture: Melbourne-based research team