Thwarting the flu with nanoparticle-based universal influenza vaccines



Seasonal influenza, more commonly known as the flu, is one of the leading causes of hospitalization and death in the United States. Although vaccination is the most effective strategy for preventing influenza, changes in circulating influenza viruses result in the need for new vaccines each year and inconsistent vaccine effectiveness between seasons. Additionally, new influenza virus strains can emerge spontaneously that populations may have no immunity to, potentially triggering large outbreaks and pandemics. To address these issues, researchers aim to design ‘universal’ influenza vaccines that would provide immunity against a broad range of influenza viruses and would not need to be reformulated and administered on a yearly basis.


A team of IRP researchers at NIH’s Vaccine Research Center (VRC), led by Masaru Kanekiyo, D.V.M., Ph.D., designed a series of proof-of-concept nanoparticle-based universal influenza vaccine candidates. These vaccines display portions of influenza viruses on the exterior of a nanoparticle. Several clinical trials for a ferritin nanoparticle-based influenza vaccine candidate have demonstrated that this particular vaccine platform is safe and stimulates immune responses against multiple influenza subtypes, including some whose constituents are not included in the vaccine. The VRC is also assessing an investigational ‘mosaic nanoparticle’ vaccine designed to provide consistent protection for multiple seasons.


Next-generation nanoparticle-based influenza vaccines may provide broader protection against a variety of influenza viruses than traditional seasonal vaccines, resulting in consistent protection for many years without the need for reformulation and administration of a new influenza vaccine on an annual basis. Furthermore, these universal influenza vaccine candidates may provide better baseline protection against exotic influenza viruses that jump from animals to humans, thereby preventing future flu pandemics.


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Boyoglu-Barnum S, Ellis D, Gillespie RA, Hutchinson GB, Park YJ, Moin SM, Acton OJ, Ravichandran R, Murphy M, Pettie D, Matheson N, Carter L, Creanga A, Watson MJ, Kephart S, Ataca S, Vaile JR, Ueda G, Crank MC, Stewart L, Lee KK, Guttman M, Baker D, Mascola JR, Veesler D, Graham BS, King NP, Kanekiyo M. (2021). Quadrivalent influenza nanoparticle vaccines induce broad protection. Nature. Apr;592(7855):623-628. doi: 10.1038/s41586-021-03365-x.

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This page was last updated on Tuesday, November 29, 2022