Vaccine experts at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) have begun multiple clinical trials of vaccines designed to protect against H7N9, an avian influenza virus that was first reported in humans in 2013 in China.
"This research will help us better understand immune responses to the vaccine," said Wilbur Chen, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine and Chief of the Adult Clinical Studies section in UMSOM's Center for Vaccine Development (CVD), who is leading one of the trials. "Pandemic preparedness is a priority. While the H7N9 virus is not circulating in the United States at this time, this important research will help us better understand how to protect individuals from the H7N9 influenza strain should it spread outside China."
CVD has a Vaccine and Treatment Evaluation Unit (VTEU) funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) (HHSN2720002I-FY.2017.B8C12.0080), an institute of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Similar research is being conducted at other NIAID VTEU sites.
One trial at UMSOM involves healthy volunteers 19 years of age and older; it is the only trial evaluating the vaccine in elderly adults (age 65 years and older). This trial will evaluate different dosages of vaccine with or without an adjuvant, an ingredient used to stimulate better immune responses to a vaccine. The other trial will test the vaccine on adults 19 to 64 when given sequentially or simultaneously with seasonal influenza vaccine. In both these trials, the vaccine was developed by Sanofi Pasteur, based in Lyon, France. The vaccine - called 2017 H7N9 IIV- uses an inactivated form of the H7N9 influenza virus that was collected in 2017 to increase the likelihood that it will provide immunity against a newly evolved strain of the virus. The adjuvant, called AS03, was produced by GSK Biologicals, based in Rockville, MD, USA.
"Vaccine development and testing has been a key part of our research program here at the University of Maryland School of Medicine," said UMSOM Dean E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA, Executive Vice President, Medical Affairs, University of Maryland and the John and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor and Dean, University of Maryland School of Medicine. "Influenza vaccine development is important, particularly as new strains arise each year and we face the the risk of potential pandemics."