Human Trial of mRNA Universal Flu Vaccine Begins


A Phase 1 trail of a universal mRNA-based influenza vaccine is under way at Duke Unversity in Durham, North Carolina. It’s being developed by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases’ (NAID) Vaccine Research Center (VRC). New Atlas reports: Some 50 participants aged 18-49 will be split into three groups and given 10, 25 and 50 micrograms of the active drug, respectively. When optimal dosage is then determined, another 10 participants will get this measured jab. There will also be an additional group who will receive a current quadrivalent seasonal flu shot, so researchers have a comparative dataset that takes into account the immune response and safety of readily available influenza vaccines. Those in the trial will then be regularly evaluated over 12 months to see how the drug’s immune response has fared and to assess its short-term and long-term safety.

This trial comes after the initial NIAID’s Vaccine Research Center study on the safety and immune response of the H1ssF (H1 hemagglutinin stabilized stem ferritin) nanoparticle vaccine. The Phase 1 trial, from April 2019 to March 2020, delivered broad antibody responses in the 52 participants aged 18-70. The results of the trial were published last month in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

The H1ssF vaccine targets the flu protein hemagglutinin. One section of this protein — the ‘head’ — changes as the virus evolves into different strains, but the stem of the protein is much slower to be altered and remains fairly constant throughout influenza mutations. The researchers believe herein lies the key to a long-lasting, effective universal preventative vaccine. The new trial combines the H1ssF nanoparticle vaccine with messenger RNA (mRNA) as the platform, with the end goal that it’ll deliver a more efficient, targeted immune response.