Seasonal flu causes approximately 24,000 deaths every year in the United States. Dr. Henry Wan, an associate professor at MSU, said that he wants to make the development of flu vaccines a more efficient and cost-effective process. Wan developed AntigenMap, a system to map flu viruses in two- or three-dimensions, according to MSBusiness.com.
“Vaccine development is expensive and depends on many laboratories around the world. It also involves the use of live viruses,” Wan said, MSBusiness.com reports. “AntigenMap involves looking at the changes of viruses through history and over geographic regions. It is basically mapping out viruses and showing their actual antigenic distance from each other.”
Researchers begin mapping by ranking each virus. Wan says it is not unlike the way users rank their movies on Netflix and then receive recommendations.
“When you rank movies on Netflix, the program is able to build recommendations that suit your tastes,” Wan said, MSBusiness.com reports. “We build the same sort of table for flu viruses, and what results is the viruses’ activity and behavior. Using a computer program, that table gets turned into a map, and we can actually see the different viruses and how they are related to each other.”