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Flu News Friday 12/11/2020

Read the latest on influenza vaccines in this week’s roundup.

The Latest in Influenza Vaccines

1. Universal Influenza Vaccine Candidate Advances

Promising results in a recent study from Krammer et al. report their chimeric hemagglutinin-based universal influenza virus vaccine approach induces broad and long-lasting immunity in a randomized, placebo-controlled phase I trial

This week the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai launched a new podcastReal, Smart People, which profiles the clinicians and researchers behind some of the most important medical breakthroughs of our time. The show gives listeners a window into the lives and work of the most innovative minds in medicine. This episode spotlights Adolfo Garcia-Sastre, PhD, Director of the Global Health and Emerging Pathogens Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and one of the authors of the promising phase I UIV trial. He reflects on the thrill of discovery and the connection between butterfly-catching, his hobby, and pursuing a UIV.

While the seasonal flu is seeing lower activity than usual for this time of year in the U.S., daily counts of cases and deaths from COVID-19 are at an all-time high — and the FDA is continuing to prepare for the dangerous intersection of these two infectious diseases. On Dec. 4, the agency granted its first emergency authorization to an at-home test kit from Quest Diagnostics, a test capable of detecting COVID-19 as well as influenza A and B.

Scientists from Johns Hopkins University and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai examined whether biological sex and age intersect to affect universal influenza vaccine-induced immunity. The data suggested antibody responses and protection to a chimeric HA-based UIV declines with advanced age and the decline appears to be more prominent in females than males. Serum from vaccinated adult mice is not sufficient to protect naïve aged, sex-matched mice. Therefore, age and biological sex should be a consideration in preclinical and clinical studies for UIVs.

Ohio-based Blue Water Vaccines is working to develop a universal influenza vaccine, building off a collaboration with Oxford University that started in 2019. The UIV is based on mathematical models and technology from Oxford University. Contagion Live interviews Joseph Hernandez, CEO of Blue Water Vaccines, and discusses their pre-clinical trial findings on their influenza vaccine, how it will be able to work on even future strains of the flu, and their timeline for development and future studies.

Conventional egg-based influenza vaccination relies on the variable globular head domain of the hemagglutinin (HA) surface protein. Combined with antigenic drift, this requires seasonal vaccination. In this study, scientists from the Korea Research Institute of Bioscience and Biotechnology (KRIBB) used an M2 protein as the vaccine antigen candidate, 3M2e-3HA2-NP. The vaccination with the chimeric protein with the PGA/alum adjuvant produced strongly induced influenza-specific antibody responses, cytotoxic T cell activity, and antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity in mice. These are encouraging results as a potential future UIV candidate.

Influenza infects 1 billion people each year and its genetic shape-shifting means that vaccines aren’t always effective. Scientists around the world are searching for a flu shot that will offer lasting protection and even fight strains of the virus that don’t yet exist. This research might also be crucial in finding ways to immunize humans against other viruses, like COVID-19. (11 min)

Nextopic interviews Sarah Ives, a scientist and the Director of Contract Research for Distributed Bio on her research to create the Centivax broad based influenza vaccine. Sarah and her research are featured prominently in the chilling Netflix docuseries “Pandemic: How to Prevent an Outbreak”.

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