The Race to Create a Universal Influenza Vaccine: A Discussion on the Need and Benefits

Category Health

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The Vaccine Research Center (VRC) of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) has announced the start of a clinical trial of an experimental universal influenza vaccine, known as 1ssF-3928 mRNA-LNP. This new vaccine would be of the mRNA-based type which eliminates the need for annual immunization, and promises to be a major public health achievement in eliminating the need for both seasonal amounts of producing flu vaccines and the yearly need of recipients to inject themselves with it.

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The race to create the world's first mRNA-based universal influenza vaccine is gaining momentum.

The Vaccine Research Center (VRC) of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) has announced the start of a clinical trial of an experimental universal influenza vaccine. Volunteers are being recruited at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.

--- The phase 1 trial --- .

The phase 1 trial will evaluate the efficacy and immune response generated by this experimental vaccine, which is currently known as 1ssF-3928 mRNA-LNP. According to the NIAID's official statement, the trial will involve 50 healthy volunteers aged 18 to 49. There will be three study groups of ten participants each. Each participant will receive a different dose of the experimental vaccine (10, 25, and 50 micrograms). The groups will assist researchers in determining the best dosage. Once the optimal dosage has been determined, an additional ten participants will be vaccinated with it. All the participants involved in this trial will be evaluated to check for the vaccine's immune response and safety. After one year of vaccination, the participants are required to attend follow-up appointments to assess the vaccine's short-term and long-term safety.

The development of a successful universal influenza vaccine is expected to significantly reduce the annual flu deaths globally.

--- Why the need for a universal vaccine --- .

The prevalence of different influenza strains each year necessitates the development of universal vaccines. According to NIAID, "Each year, before the flu season begins, scientific experts must predict which influenza strains are likely to be most common during the upcoming months and then select three or four of these strains to include in the next seasonal flu vaccine." This makes vaccine development a difficult and time-consuming process. Furthermore, vaccine manufacturers require sufficient time to produce and distribute the vaccine. Another disadvantage is that the dominant strains of the virus may mutate, reducing vaccine efficacy. All of these issues could be addressed with the development of a universal flu vaccine. Simultaneously, it will protect recipients against various virus strains while also boosting their immunity for a longer period of time. This new type of vaccine would also eliminate the need for annual immunization.

Another potential use of the new vaccine if successful, could be for creating a prophylactic against a potential future pandemic caused by a mutation of an existing virus.

"A universal influenza vaccine would be a major public health achievement and could eliminate the need for both annual development of seasonal influenza vaccines, as well as the need for patients to get a flu shot each year," said Hugh Auchincloss, Acting NIAID Director, in an official statement. "Moreover, some strains of the influenza virus have significant pandemic potential. A universal flu vaccine could serve as an important line of defense against the spread of a future flu pandemic," Auchincloss added.

The experimental mRNA-based universal influenza vaccine, known as 1ssF-3928 mRNA-LNP, is currently being tested on 50 healthy individuals aged 18 to 49 in the phase 1 trial.

Each year, seasonal flu kills thousands of people in the United States alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between 2010 and 2020, approximately 12,000 to 52,000 people died in the United States as a result of the flu.

Annual seasonal flu vaccines could be a useful tool in reducing the spread and severity of influenza.

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