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Preventing influenza pandemics- Read our series in Nature Research

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Flu News Friday 5/14/21

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

The Latest in Influenza Vaccines

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1. How COVID broke the evidence pipeline
Helen Pearson, Nature / May 12, 2021

Nature explores how researchers are navigating the immense amount of evidence produced during the COVID-19 pandemic, how this evidence is being used to inform both medical practice and policy, and what solutions have been proposed to systematically review evidence, including “living” reviews of evidence. Going forward, evidence needs to be made more accessible to Low- and Middle-Income Countries (LMICs), while evidence gathered also needs to better address the situations faced by LMICs.

2. Defeat the next pandemic — in advance
Jaclyn Levy and Franklin Kramer, the Hill / May 12, 2021

Jaclyn Levy of the Infectious Diseases Society of America and Franklin Kramer of the Atlantic Council call for taking advantage of the “once-in-a-generation opportunity” to prevent the next pandemic: to “undertake moonshot R&D for infectious diseases; to ensure sustained focus on antimicrobials; to establish enhanced surveillance capabilities; and to utilize global partnerships…defeating future pandemics will require the best minds working together with multidisciplinary responses rooted in team science and novel partnerships.”

3. A ‘Universal Vaccine’ May Soon Protect Against All Coronaviruses, Including the Common Cold
Adam Piore, Newsweek / May 12, 2021

Funding and science lobbying has shifted its focus to the development of “universal” coronavirus vaccines, vaccines that would provide protection against all coronavirus variants and subtypes. Newsweek details such efforts including 1 billion USD proposed in congressional legislation, pledges from private philanthropic organizations and public health officials, and articles in leading scientific journals making the case for the investment. The article also explores other innovative vaccine approaches like custom-made vaccines and a “prototype pathogen” approach for pandemic preparedness.

4. Leading coronavirus scientist, Kizzmekia S. Corbett, to join Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health to continue vaccine development research
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health / May 11, 2021

Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett will head the new Coronaviruses & Other Relevant Emerging Infectious Diseases (CoreID) Lab at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health to study and understand the interface between hosts’ immune systems and viruses that cause respiratory disease, with the goal of informing development of novel and potentially universal vaccines. Previously at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases’ (NIAID) Vaccine Research Center, Dr. Corbett was part of the groundbreaking research to develop the Moderna SARS-CoV-2 mRNA vaccine, researched to develop a universal flu vaccine, and focused on mentorship of those from underrepresented backgrounds. As a Black female scientist, Corbett has used her national platform to address vaccine hesitancy, or as she calls it, “vaccine inquisitiveness,” in the Black community and reassure skeptics of its safety and efficacy by speaking virtually at churches and other community organizations. She hopes to continue these community outreach efforts in Boston.

5. Intranasal vaccination with influenza HA/GO-PEI nanoparticles provides immune protection against homo- and heterologous strains
Dong et al., Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences / May 11, 2021

Georgia State University and Emory University researchers have developed an intranasal flu vaccine approach using polyethyleneimine-functionalized graphene oxide nanoparticles (GP nanoparticles) with incorporated recombinant influenza hemagglutinin (HA). The self-adjuvated vaccine induces enhanced cross-reactive mucosal and systemic immune responses, including both humoral and cell-mediated arms of the immune system.

6. Combination Respiratory Vaccine Containing Recombinant SARS-CoV-2 Spike and Quadrivalent Seasonal Influenza Hemagglutinin Nanoparticles with Matrix-M Adjuvant [Pre-print]
Massare et al., bioRxiv / May 5, 2021

The co-circulation of SARS-CoV-2 and influenza viruses is a likely situation for the upcoming influenza season, with the ever-present threat of influenza viruses undergoing antigenic drift to novel or pandemic strains. Novavax has developed a combination quadrivalent seasonal influenza and SARS-CoV-2 (qNIV/CoV2373) vaccine to be administered with their Matrix-M™ adjuvant. The development of the vaccine builds upon their quadrivalent Nanoflu vaccine and NVX-CoV2373 SARS-CoV-2 vaccine candidates. The results of the preclinical study demonstrates the nanoparticle vaccine to elicit neutralizing antibodies against influenza A and B and against SARS-CoV-2 epitopes common to both US-WA and B.1.352 variants in ferret and hamster models. The Nanoflu vaccine has previously demonstrated elicitation of broadly neutralizing antibodies.

7. The pig as a medical model for acquired respiratory diseases and dysfunctions: An immunological perspective
Bertho et al., Molecular Immunology / April 29, 2021

Scientists review the pros and cons of the porcine (pig) animal model for acquired respiratory diseases, like influenza, from an immunological point of view. Before testing the safety and efficacy of new pharmacological agents such as vaccines in human clinical trials, regulatory authorities require testing in animal models. Increasing the repertoire of animal models for studying immunity is important for basic research for vaccine development.

8. Impaired HA-specific T follicular helper cell and antibody responses to influenza vaccination are linked to inflammation in humans [Pre-Print]
Hill et al., medRxiv / April 13, 2021

Induction of antibodies post-vaccination can help provide protective immunity with subsequent infection. However, older populations with immunosenescence have less protective antibody responses following influenza vaccination. Using systems immunology, scientists determined which immune parameters are associated with antibody formation upon vaccination. The study suggests differentiation into antigen-specific T follicular helper (Tfh) cells is essential for high antibody responses. With age, there is a decrease in the formation of Tfh cells and antibody responses, with a higher inflammatory response. The authors conclude that strategies to dampen the inflammatory response at the time of vaccination could be a strategy to enhance antibody generation in older populations.

9. A human coronavirus evolves antigenically to escape antibody immunity
Eguia et al., PLOS Pathogens / April 8, 2021

It is unclear whether re-infections of “common-cold” seasonal coronaviruses occur due to rapidly declining immunity or due to viral evolution leading immune escape. Scientists from the University of Washington and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center are studying the evolution of the common-cold coronavirus 229E and find viral mutations occur in the same regions of the spike (S) protein that are evolving in emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants. The study results suggest if SARS-CoV-2 is to evolve similarly to 229E, SARS-CoV-2 vaccines may need to be periodically updated to keep up with antigenic evolution, much like influenza vaccines.

10. Funding Opportunities

MRC infections and immunity new investigator research grants: Sep 2021
Medical Research Council, UK Research & Innovation / Opens June 14, 2021 / Closes September 8, 2021

EPSRC synthetic biology postdoctoral fellowship
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, UK Research & Innovation / Opened December 2, 2020 / No closing date

Institute for Human Infections and Immunity (IHII) Pilot Grant Program
The University of Texas Medical Branch / Due June 14, 2021