The clinical trial of an experimental universal influenza vaccine developed by NIAID researchers from the Vaccine Research Centre has started to enrol volunteers. The Phase I trial will test that safety and immunogenicity of the vaccine in a healthy adult population. As we explored last year, experts have set their sights on a universal flu breakthrough in the next few years. Could this vaccine be the one? 

The vaccine in trial 

The vaccine, known as H1ss-3928 mRNA-LNP, will be tested for its safety and ability to induce an immune response in volunteers at Duke University, North Carolina. The trial is expected to enrol up to 50 volunteers, between the ages of 18 and 49. Following an initial dose evaluation with three groups, more participants will be enrolled to receive the optimum dosage. The study will compare results with recipients of a current quadrivalent seasonal influenza vaccine.  

Unlike a previous vaccine, also developed by the Vaccine Research Centre, the H1ss-3928 mRNA-LNP vaccine uses an mRNA platform. The hope is that using a range of platforms to create a vaccine will offer greater potential for the discovery of a safe and effective candidate.  

The study is conducted through the Collaborative Influenza Vaccine Innovation Centres (CIVICs) programme, created by NIAID in 2019. However, this is the first investigational universal flu vaccine candidate to be tested by the programme. It was manufactured at the Duke Human Vaccine Institute (DHVI).  

Why is this important? 

As estimated by the CDC, up to 52,000 people die of flu in the US every year. Despite the availability of seasonal flu vaccines, they are not immunogenic against every strain, instead focusing on an anticipated handful of strains. NIH reports that the problems associated with predicting could be avoided with a universal flu vaccine. 

“An effective universal flu vaccine could eliminate these problems by protecting its recipients against a wide variety of strains and ideally providing durable long-term immunity, so people would not need to be vaccinated every year.” 

The Acting Director of NIAID, Dr Hugh Auchincloss, believes that success would be a “major public health achievement”.  

“A universal flu vaccine could serve as an important line of defence against the spread of a future flu pandemic.”  

You can read more about the trial here.