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Viewpoint: This flu season is a ‘wake-up call’—we need a universal flu vaccine

| | February 13, 2018
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This article or excerpt is included in the GLP’s daily curated selection of ideologically diverse news, opinion and analysis of biotechnology innovation.

Editor’s note: Henry I. Miller, a physician, molecular biologist and former flu virus researcher, is the Robert Wesson fellow in scientific philosophy and public policy at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He was the founding director of the Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Biotechnology.

This year, the vaccine is a poor match (probably around 30 percent effective), in part because most illnesses are caused by a virulent strain called H3N2, against which the flu vaccine typically isn’t very effective. One of the reasons for flu vaccines’ relative ineffectivness is that most of the vaccine is prepared from fertlized chicken eggs, a method of production known to reduce the effectiveness against certain flu strains, particularly H3N2.

Regulators should encourage manufacturers to stop using chicken eggs and instead prepare vaccines in “cultured cells” – cells that have been removed from animals and grown under controlled conditions. This method would produce vaccines with greater fidelity to the targeted flu strains.

We also need more research on “adjuvants” – chemicals mixed with the viral antigens to further boost our immune response. But most of all, we need to accelerate research on the holy grail of flu prevention: a “universal” vaccine that would target a part or parts of the flu virus that remain unchanged among different strains, even during the virus’s rapid mutations. A universal vaccine has the potential to provide us with long-term protection from all strains of flu.

The development of a universal vaccine is more challenging but it promises much greater results, and deserves more support. This fearsome flu season should serve as a wake-up call.

Read full, original post: We need a universal flu vaccine — No more excuses

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