Researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch are working to create a universal flu vaccine — one that could eliminate the need for an annual flu shot.
If approved for general use, the vaccine would be a public health breakthrough not only in preventing influenza in the United States but most importantly in the developing world, where the virus can have much more devastating effects due to the challenge of vaccinating these populations every year.
Thanks to a $4.4 million grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, UTMB researchers and Seattle-based biotechnology company Etubics Corporation plan to construct, produce and test a vaccine containing various antigens of the A and B strains of influenza.
If successful, clinicians could have a vaccine that recognizes all influenza viruses, not just a single type, ready for patients within five years, according to Dr. Frank Jones, chairman and chief executive officer of Etubics.
Co-principal investigator Dr. Slobodan Paessler, a professor in the UTMB Department of Pathology and director of the Preclinical Studies Core in the Galveston National Laboratory, said that UTMB has one of the most comprehensive university-based vaccine development programs in the world.
"UTMB also has broad capabilities in the area of vaccine development and infectious diseases," he said. "We believe these resources provide an excellent infrastructure to support this project as it moves forward through the vaccine development pathway to ultimately become a licensed vaccine."
Vaccine development is one of the most ambitious of scientific undertakings, often taking several years and at least a half billion dollars for a vaccine to go from the lab to clinical trials to common use. There are only about 50 vaccines approved worldwide today.
UTMB researchers have earned worldwide recognition for their contributions to the field, and today are focusing on developing vaccines not only for infectious diseases but also aging-related chronic illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer and Alzheimer's disease.
The University of Texas Medical Branch
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ABOUT UTMB HEALTH: Texas' first academic health center opened its doors in 1891 and today comprises four health sciences schools, three institutes for advanced study, a research enterprise that includes one of only two national laboratories dedicated to the safe study of infectious threats to human health, and a health system offering a full range of primary and specialized medical services throughout Galveston County and the Texas Gulf Coast region. UTMB Health is a component of the University of Texas System and a member of the Texas Medical Center.
ABOUT ETUBICS: Etubics Corporation, based in Seattle, Wash., is a clinical stage biotechnology company, which has developed a proprietary platform technology consisting of a next generation Ad5 platform and a manufacturing E.C7 human cell line, collectively known as the Etubics Platform. Clinical work to date shows that the Etubics Platform overcomes problems associated with pre-existing immunity against the adenovirus vectors. The Etubics Platform can be used to efficiently and rapidly develop immunotherapeutic drugs and preventive vaccines for a wide range of infectious diseases and cancers. Since 2006, Etubics Corporation has received federal grant and contract funding in excess of $19 million from the National Cancer Institute, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research and the Department of Defense. These grants have helped to further the Etubics Platform through Phase 1 and Phase 2 colorectal cancer trials, and prepare for clinical trials for breast cancer and HPV induced cancer. http://www.etubics.com
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