Public Release: 

Vanderbilt leads international effort to develop universal flu vaccine

Vanderbilt University Medical Center

Researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center are leading an international effort to develop a universal influenza vaccine that would protect everyone against all strains of the flu anywhere in the world.

Current flu vaccines can reduce the risk of influenza by up to 60 percent during seasons when the vaccine is well-matched to most circulating strains of the flu. In some years, however, vaccine effectiveness has dropped to 10 percent, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

With influenza killing 250,000 to 500,000 people around the world each year, "we are long overdue to solve this very real global health threat," said Wayne C. Koff, Ph.D., President and CEO of The Human Vaccines Project, a public-private partnership that is funding the effort.

The Universal Influenza Vaccine Initiative, which was announced today, will be led by James Crowe Jr., M.D., director of the Vanderbilt Vaccine Center, and C. Buddy Creech, M.D., MPH, associate professor of Pediatrics and director of the Vanderbilt Vaccine Research Program in the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases.

The initiative will launch a series of influenza vaccine clinical trials in globally diverse populations beginning early in 2018.

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology, J. Craig Venter Institute, the University of British Columbia and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory will conduct a broad spectrum analysis of blood and tissue samples from vaccinated and infected individuals.

Coupled with artificial intelligence driven computer simulation models, they will seek to determine why some people are protected against the flu while others are not.

"These trials will be among the most comprehensive human clinical research studies ever undertaken," said Crowe, the Ann Scott Carell Professor in the Departments of Pediatrics and Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology.

"They will determine how the immune system protects against different strains of influenza in different populations and geographic regions of the world, and what is required for a vaccine to generate long-term protective immunity," he said in a prepared statement.

"Until now, we have lacked the biomedical and computational tools to probe the complex and dynamic features of the human immune system in a complete way," Crowe added.

"But with today's technology, we can decipher the core principles behind how the immune system protects vulnerable populations, and develop a full understanding of how it prevents and controls influenza to inform the development of a universally effective vaccine."

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About Vanderbilt University Medical Center-

Managing more than 2 million patient visits each year, Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) is one of the largest academic medical centers in the Southeast, and is the primary resource for specialty and primary care in hundreds of adult and pediatric specialties for patients throughout Tennessee and the Mid-South. The School of Medicine's biomedical research program is among the nation's top 10 in terms of National Institutes of Health peer review funding, receiving more than $500 million in public and private awards during 2017. The Medical Center is the region's locus of postgraduate medical education, with over 1,000 residents and fellows training in more than 100 specialty areas. Vanderbilt University Adult Hospital and the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt are recognized each year by U.S. News & World Report's Best Hospitals rankings as national leaders, with 21 nationally recognized adult and pediatric specialties. Through the Vanderbilt Health Affiliated Network, VUMC is working with more than 60 hospitals and 5,000 clinicians across Tennessee and five neighboring states to share best practices and bring value-driven and cost-effective health care to the Mid-South.

About the Human Vaccines Project-

The Human Vaccines Project is a nonprofit public-private partnership with a mission to decode the human immune system to accelerate the development of vaccines and immunotherapies against major global diseases. The Project brings together leading academic research centers, industrial partners, nonprofits and governments to address the primary scientific barriers to developing new vaccines and immunotherapies. Supporters and funders for the Project include the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, GSK, MedImmune, Illumina, Sanofi Pasteur, Johnson & Johnson/Janssen, Pfizer, Moderna, Boehringer Ingelheim, Aeras, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, UC San Diego, The Scripps Research Institute, J. Craig Venter Institute and La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology. To learn more, visit http://www.humanvaccinesproject.org and follow @HumanVacProject on Twitter.

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