Research Project: Development of a Universal Flu Vaccine
Funded by the American Lung Association’s Accelerator Program and Texas Biomedical Research Institute
Influenza viruses are highly contagious pathogens that cause fatal respiratory disease every year, with high economic impact. Influenza viruses are also responsible for occasional pandemics of great consequences to humans. While influenza viruses continue to remain an emerging threat to human public health, vaccination still represents the most effective strategy to reduce the impact of that threat. However, current influenza vaccines need to be formulated every year to protect against drifted viral variants. With influenza’s extensive genetic variability, new vaccine strategies aim to direct the immune response to generate protective antibodies against conserved targets (i.e., low genetic variability), such as conserved regions within the viral hemagglutinin (HA) and neuraminidase (NA) proteins. Induction of such broadly protective antibodies is a centralized feature of a universal influenza vaccine. Our team has previously worked to identify antibodies targeting conserved regions in the virus that neutralize influenza and to evaluate their protection in animal models of infection. Results from our research will aid in the design of new vaccines and/or vaccine platforms that confer universal protection against seasonal and potentially pandemic influenza viruses.