Universal flu vaccine could be ready for trials next year
In 2010, the U.S. National Institutes of Health estimated that, by targeting the portions of the flu virus that rarely mutate, a universal flu vaccine could be introduced in five years. Such a vaccine would be dispensed in a fashion similar to a mumps or measles shot. People could be vaccinated as children and then receive boosters later on, according to USNews.com.
"It's like putting up a tent over your immune system that protects against rapidly mutating viruses," Joseph Kim, the head of Inovio Pharmaceuticals, said, USNews.com reports.
Inovio is currently one of at least three companies working of a universal vaccine. The biotech received a $3.1 million grant from NIH in 2010 to further its research.
"It's a completely different paradigm than how [the vaccines] are made seasonably every year," Kim said, according to USNews.com.
Every year, the seasonal vaccine targets three or four flu strains that researchers believe will be most prevalent in a given season. The vaccines from previous years are ineffective because influenza mutates rapidly. It also provides scant protection from outbreaks of unanticipated strains, like 2009's H1N1 swine flu.
Kim said that Invio's research shows promise. Inovio has already completed successful human tests for vaccines that are capable of protection against all H1N1 and H5N1 strains.