Medical experts predict worst flu season in history

Palese’s laboratory is actually one of three different research groups at Mount Sinai exploring a universal flu vaccine along with one of numerous efforts under way mostly in academia, biotech firms along with NIH. A handful of major pharmaceutical companies are supporting universal flu vaccine research, including GlaxoSmithKline; Janssen Vaccines, a division of Johnson & Johnson; along with Sanofi.

Palese’s team has developed a universal flu vaccine that will is actually at This specific point inside the first phase of testing in humans, with support coming from GSK along with the Gates Foundation. “What adjustments inside the influenza virus coming from year to year is actually the hemagglutinin (HA),” Palese explained, “which is actually the major protein against which we make an immune response.”

The HA comprises a head along using a stalk. “When our immune system sees a flu virus, the item makes antibodies against the head,” he said. Palese’s vaccine aims to stimulate antibodies that will bind to the more “conserved” areas on the stalk along with which remain the same every year along with are common to most seasonal flu viruses. “We want to redirect the body’s immune response to the stalk.”

A different approach to the universal vaccine is actually under way at FluGen, a biotech firm in Madison, Wisconsin. Backed by both government along with VC funding, the company is actually working with technology first discovered at the University of Wisconsin-Madison by Dr. Yoshihiro Kawaoka along with Dr. Gabriele Neumann along with exclusively licensed to FluGen. “Our vaccine, called RedeeFlu, is actually based on a premise that will says what happens if you take a [naturally occurring] ‘wild type’ of flu virus along with modify the item to infect the human body although don’t allow the item to replicate along with cause illness,” said Boyd Clarke, executive chairman of FluGen. (Coincidentally, his maternal grandfather died inside the 1918 pandemic.)

Last October, FluGen announced that will the item was awarded $14.4 million by the Department of Defense to conduct human clinical challenge trials with RedeeFlu. In those studies, half of the participants will be vaccinated along with half will receive a placebo, although all will subsequently be infected with an influenza virus. “We want to see if the vaccine prevents illness along with replication of the virus,” Clarke said. “Based on pre-clinical trials, we have reason to be optimistic.”

On another front, This specific year the Human Vaccines Project, a brand-new York-based nonprofit consortium of academic, government along with industry medical researchers, is actually launching the Universal Influenza Vaccine Initiative. “The goal is actually to understand immunity to the flu along with then convert that will into a universal flu vaccine,” said Dr. James Crowe, a pediatric infectious diseases physician at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, along with the director of UIVI. Similar to Palese’s approach, UIVI is actually targeting the more stable stalk region of the HA protein.

Although Crowe is actually dedicated to the eventual discovery of a universal vaccine, he also wants to focus on improving current vaccines. “The excitement inside the field is actually producing better vaccines for strains that will are killing people right at This specific point,” he said. “Even modest improvements could save thousands of lives.”

— By Bob Woods, special to

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