Sean Diehl, Ph.D., associate professor of microbiology and molecular genetics at the University of Vermont’s Larner College of Medicine, has played a significant role in advancing Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) prevention, a UVM statement said.
Diehl’s research influenced the development of a recent groundbreaking RSV antibody treatment, Beyfortus (nirsevimab), owned and distributed by pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, in conjunction with Sanofi.
RSV, a common respiratory virus with serious implications for infants and young children, has long posed public health challenges. Diehl’s collaboration with Amsterdam University Medical Centers (UMC) in the early 2000s led to notable progress in RSV prevention.
Diehl’s journey began in 2010 when he and fellow researchers at Amsterdam UMC identified the antibody D-25, showing potential for protecting newborns from RSV. Over more than a decade, Diehl and his collaborators refined this discovery, using practical methodologies to enhance its effectiveness. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have now endorsed the incorporation of the antibody drug, Sanofi and AstraZeneca’s Beyfortus (nirsevimab), into the vaccination schedule for children under six.
Nirsevimab is a passive immunization that delivers a single dose of a long-acting monoclonal antibody, neutralizing RSV’s ability to infect cells. This approach offers direct protection against the virus without requiring the immune system activation typical of active vaccines. Importantly, it also allows the recipient’s immune system to develop its own protective responses to RSV.
Diehl’s significant contributions lie in the development of methodologies that contributed to the success of the vaccine. His efforts have propelled RSV prevention forward and paved the way for antibody therapies against various infectious diseases, including Zika virus and dengue. Beyfortus (nirsevimab) will become part of the CDC’s Vaccines for Children program during the upcoming winter 2023 RSV season, providing protection against the virus.