Researchers develop a 'universal' vaccine against a range of influenza subtypes

Researchers develop a 'universal' vaccine against a range of influenza subtypes

A team of researchers from The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) and the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) has developed a vaccine that provides immunity against a wide range of influenza subtypes. While yearly flu shots provide protection, influenza virus mutates rapidly, and these vaccines are unable to provide immunity against the subtypes. To create a ‘universal’ vaccine that could safeguard an organism from a wide array of viruses, the researchers focused on hemagglutinin (HA), a protein that is present on the surface of all subtypes of influenza. While conventional vaccines target the ‘head’ of HA, this team targeted its long "stem" region which is similar across different flu strains and seldom mutates. To design the vaccine, they looked to influenza's own structure, specifically the universal recognition site of the broadly protective antibody CR9114 in the HA stem. They used the vaccine on rodents and non-human primates and found that they produced antibodies that could bind with HAs in many influenza subtypes and even neutralize H5N1 viruses. "While there is more work to be done, the ultimate goal, of course, would be to create a life-long vaccine," said Ian Wilson, Hansen Professor of Structural Biology and chair of the Department of Integrative Structural and Computational Biology at TSRI.

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