World’s First Human Hendra Trials Begin

A monoclonal antibody has entered clinical trials as an experimental treatment for the deadly Hendra virus.

AsianScientist (Apr. 8, 2015) – An antibody manufactured at The University of Queensland (UQ) will be used in world’s first human Hendra virus clinical trials starting this month.

First discovered in 1994, the Hendra virus is found naturally in bats and can cause fatalities in humans and horses. Although rare, the disease has a high fatality rate of 60 and 75 percent in humans and horses respectively. A vaccine for horses was developed in 2012, but there are currently no specific treatments for the disease in humans.

UQ Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN) Director Professor Peter Gray said the monoclonal antibody m.102.4 was the world’s first antibody treatment for humans. The treatment is considered an experimental therapy and will only be used in emergency situations until the human trials have been completed.

“Queensland Health contracted us to manufacture the antibody for emergency stockpiles and for the human trials,” Gray explained.

He said the antibody was engineered to mimic antibodies the human body produced naturally as an immune system response to germs, viruses and other invaders.

“It is important to understand that the antibody treatment is not a vaccine, and it needs to be administered within a short time after exposure to the Hendra virus,” he said.

There have been 52 recorded incidents of Hendra virus in horses in Australia since 1994, with 14 in New South Wales and 38 in Queensland. Ninety horses have died from the virus. There have been seven human cases of Hendra (including four fatalities) recorded in Australia, all in Queensland.

Gray said the AIBN had developed a method of producing larger amounts of the antibody without needing to reproduce any part of the Hendra virus. The institute has produced the antibody for collaborators at the CSIRO Australian Animal Health Laboratory in Geelong for testing in animal trials.

The antibody was developed through a long-standing association between Australian researchers and the US laboratories of Professor Christopher Broder at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences and Dr. Dimiter Dimitrov of the National Cancer Institute, National Institute of Health.


Source: The University of Queensland.
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