Epixvax receives grant to create universal flu vaccine

The Providence, Rhode Island, immunology company EpiVax Inc. has received a two year, $458,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases division to create a universal influenza vaccine.

EpiVax uses immunoinformatics and immunology tools to evaluate and identify the ability of extremely conserved hemagglutinin and neuraminidase T cell epitopes from H5N1 and H1N1 strains to elicit durable and robust immune responses in humans, Providence Business News reports.

“There is an urgent, unmet need for an influenza vaccine with greater potency and wider application to diverse flu viruses that can also be developed more rapidly than conventional influenza vaccines,” Dr. Anne De Groot, CEO and CSO of EpiVax, said, according to Providence Business News. “The world is looking for faster, safer and more effective ways to prevent the spread of flu. We are especially aware of the need for new technologies to accelerate production of flu vaccines in a pandemic scenario.”

EpiVax's epitope-based influenza vaccine is used to "prime" conventional influenza vaccines, though it can stand on its own in case of a vaccine shortage. The company's genomes-to-vaccine approach uses computational tools to identify T cell epitopes, which are then experimentally proven in vivo and in vitro.

Influenza causes between 250,000 and 500,000 deaths each year worldwide. There is as of yet no universal vaccine that will protect against all influenza strains.