“The design of therapeutic agents and vaccines based on the interactions of viral proteins with host cell glycans… is a transformative approach to treating and preventing infectious diseases…”
Visterra is dedicated to the discovery and development of innovative products for the prevention, treatment and diagnosis of infectious diseases. Visterra utilizes an integrated technology platform, built around its unique structural understanding of the role of glycans (complex sugars) in infectious disease, to rationally design drug candidates which are both more effective and refractory to resistance development. In contrast to screening approaches, Visterra's structure-based engineering approach yields customized drug candidates that cannot be created by, nor harvested from, the human immune system. The company has established proof of concept with its lead therapeutic product candidate for influenza.
The company's lead programs are focused on seasonal and pandemic influenza. The design of therapeutic agents and vaccines based on the interactions of viral proteins with host cell glycans – which is a critical interface for how viruses gain entry into cells – is a transformative approach to treating and preventing infectious diseases, including influenza.
Visterra has generated a pipeline of novel drug candidates that inhibit early stages of cell entry by targeting an early step in the infection cycle. These drug candidates bind to a unique region on the virus that is conserved across all influenza subtypes. Our rational structure-based approach allows us to access a region on the virus that is not fully accessible to the human immune system and, therefore, not amenable to antibody selection through screening approaches. We have shown that our therapeutic agents are potent, selective inhibitors of a broad set of influenza strains, including pandemic 2009 H1N1 ("swine flu") and H5N1 ("avian flu"), and we have established proof of concept with our lead product candidate.
Available influenza anti-viral drugs target neuraminidase, an enzyme involved in the late-stage virus budding process. These agents lack sufficient efficacy to mitigate late-term infection, and many circulating influenza strains are resistant to these agents.
Visterra is leveraging its integrated technology platform and unique understanding of glycan biology to rationally design more efficacious vaccines for pandemic and seasonal influenza. Visterra's structure-based approach will allow the company's pandemic vaccines to be prepared in advance so that they are ready to be deployed against specific avian virus subtypes that may mutate to become human-adapted and highly transmissable. Seasonal vaccines designed by Visterra are expected to generate a more potent immune response without the use of adjuvants and provide broad protection against viral strain variation. The vaccine "software" developed by Visterra can be used in any approved vaccine manufacturing system, thereby potentially enabling highly rapid development and approval based on established regulatory processes.
Visterra has designed a prototype for the first functional influenza diagnostic that identifies both the subtype and the extent of human transmissibility of any influenza virus. This diagnostic assay is both highly sensitive, detecting virus in physiological samples without amplification, and highly specific, functionally distinguishing closely related viruses. Visterra's diagnostic test can be incorporated into standard platforms and provide results in minutes, making it suitable for clinical screening, government surveillance and military applications.