Flu News Day, 3/8/2023
March 8th’s Flu News Day features CIDRAP’s Coronavirus Roadmap, the Influenzer Initiative’s latest release and more. Read here to catch up on the latest in influenza news and funding.
The Global Governance of Emerging Zoonotic Diseases
The COVID-19 pandemic and increasing threats of H5N1 avian flu, including the recent flu-related death of an 11-year-old girl in Cambodia, have reignited discussion surrounding prevention measures for zoonotic diseases. The Council on Foreign Relation’s recent publication explores the historical gaps of creating global governance for zoonotic diseases that have left the global population vulnerable to potential zoonotic pandemics. While there is no lack of scientific or political interest in addressing zoonotic diseases, the CFR cites diverse framing of the issue between organizations as a main barrier to establishing global priorities and interventions. You can read more about these challenges and the call to create an institution with clear legal and linking frameworks here.
Moderna announces mixed results for influenza mRNA vaccine candidate
Moderna has reported differing outcomes in the middle of its Phase 3 trial for its first mRNA influenza vaccine. The vaccine is designed to target 4 strains of flu, including influenza A strains H1N1 and H3N2 and influenza B strains Yamagata- and Victoria- lineages. However, data released by Moderna shows that while the vaccine showed strong immunogenicity results for influenza A, the immune response for influenza B was not as effective as current vaccines. mRNA vaccines have been considered one of several platforms for development of a universal influenza vaccine, especially with the recent success of mRNA coronavirus vaccines. While this result presents a challenge to the vaccine, Moderna has already begun to alter the vaccine’s design to adjust these results. You can read more about this latest news on mRNA vaccines for influenza here.
Breathing and Tilting: Mesoscale Simulations Illuminate Influenza Glycoprotein Vulnerabilities
A study conducted in December 2022 at the University of California San Diego discovered dynamic movements of H1N1 influenza surface proteins that expose novel vulnerabilities. The impressively sized computer simulation displays the movements referred to as “breathing” and “tilting”, which allow for exposure of a novel epitope previously unknown. The study suggests that these movements are not strain specific, which researchers believe can give rise to future universal influenza vaccines that do not have to adjust to diverse surface proteins. Vaccines based on this discovery could instead “lock” the surface proteins into an open position during the dynamic movements to allow antibodies to bind the non-strain specific epitope. To learn more about this new discovery and how researchers foresee it being utilized to develop future vaccines and antivirals, read the article by Casalino et al. here.
Coronavirus Vaccines R&D Roadmap
A new roadmap outlining the development of broadly protective coronavirus vaccines has recently been published by the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP). This roadmap, which was highly influenced by the Influenza Vaccines R&D Roadmap published by CIDRAP in 2021, spans a 6-year timeline that integrates the goals and resources of partners across the entirety of the vaccine R&D process. The roadmap covers five topic areas: virology, immunology, vaccinology, animal and human infection models, and finally policy and financing. As CIDRAP comments, several of these topic areas, policy and financing in particular, present opportunities to integrate broad coronavirus vaccine development with efforts and processes that already exist for universal influenza vaccines development. Read the complete roadmap here.
The Flu Vaccine Forum
On March 16th, the Influenzer Initiative is hosting a live-streamed webinar!
A “game-changing” Universal Influenza Vaccine (UIV) candidate arrives. What’s next? In this installment of the Flu Vaccine Forum webinar series, experts Dr. Diane Post (Chief, Viral Respiratory Diseases Section, DMID/NIAID/NIH), Dr. Scott Hensley (Professor of Microbiology at the University of Pennsylvania and Director of Penn-CEIRR), and Dr. Norman Baylor (Trustee, Sabin Vaccine Institute and Former Director of FDA’s Office of Vaccines Research and Review) will discuss the roadblocks that a promising preclinical candidate faces on its long journey to the marketplace and explore strategies for overcoming them.
Livestreamed on YouTube, the webinar will feature a lively discussion and a question-and-answer session.