Breakthrough in search for universal flu vaccine

A Seattle biotech company on the trail of a universal flu vaccine has announced the discovery of a common weakness in virtually all strains, past and present, of the flu virus.

Theraclone also told that it has found a rare antibody that is able to target the weakness the company found. When combined, the company says, the result could be a universal flu vaccine.

"The virus changes all the time and it's constantly multiplying and mutating," Matthew Moyle, Theraclone's chief scientific officer, told "So what we're looking for are parts of the virus that never change and antibodies that recognize the parts of the virus that never change."

Theraclone screened 100 healthy humans in search of antibodies that could attach to the flu virus' unchanged area, which is virtually the same in all flu strains.

"The hope is to use these antibodies to try to make a vaccine that will focus on eliciting the same type of antibody in people who are vaccinated,"  Moyle told

Moyle said that antibodies are expensive and more of a stop-gap measure, adding that they would allow doctors to treat high-risk groups and potentially be utilized in a pandemic.

Theraclone says it is at least a year away from human clinical trials that, if successful, would be followed by more clinical trials.