Researchers publish new methods to generate flu vaccines

A team of researchers including both government agencies and pharmaceutical companies recently published the discovery of new methods for the rapid generation of influenza vaccines through synthetic genomics and technologies.

The research team consisted of international researchers from the J. Craig Venter Institute, Synthetic Genomics, Inc., the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, the Marburg, Germany-based Phillips University's Institute for Virology and Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics. The team published the study in Wednesday's edition of Science Translational Medicine.

The team accurately constructed robust synthetic vaccine viruses for use in influenza vaccine development in four days and four hours. The researchers concluded the method is novel and accurate and could lead to a faster pandemic response. The findings could also lead to a more reliable supply of better matched seasonal and pandemic vaccines than currently available.

"Our teams have been working hard to put our combined expertise to work toward the development of next generation vaccines," J. Craig Venter, a senior author for the paper and the CEO and founder of JCVI and SGI, said. "We believe that synthetic genomic advances hold the key to transforming many industries and one of the most important will be in advanced vaccines that have the power to help prevent public health threats such as influenza pandemics."

Influenza vaccines are traditionally developed when the virus is cultured and grown in chicken eggs. The synthetic genomics approach employs computer-based virus genome sequence data. The team synthesized the two antigens used in vaccine production, hemagglutinin and neuraminidase in approximately ten hours and transfected them into Madin-Darby canine kidney cells. The researchers then used a one cell line for seed generation and vaccine antigen production.

"As an industry leader in the research, development, manufacture and supply of flu vaccines, Novartis is committed to identifying new ways to speed development of safe and efficacious vaccines to protect patients from seasonal flu and potential pandemics," Rino Rappuoli, the head of vaccines research at Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics, said. "Our research shows the potential power of synthetic vaccine development in addressing emerging public health threats. By electronically transmitting genetic information rather shipping biological materials, we can begin development of new vaccines more quickly, and ultimately, better protect global health."

The work was made possible in part through a contract with BARDA and funds from the Novartis Foundation and the National Institutes of Health National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

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National Institutes of Health

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