The Human Vaccines Project, a public-private partnership with a mission to decode the immune system to advance human health, announced the launch of the Universal Influenza Vaccine Initiative (UIVI), a first-of-its-kind program that will address the underlying scientific barrier impeding the development of broadly protective, universal influenza vaccines: the human immune response.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), influenza is estimated to kill between 250,000 and 500,000 people around the world every year. As the world becomes more interconnected, the risks for a new pandemic continue to increase, carrying the potential for widespread social, economic and political upheaval. A universal vaccine, once developed, would protect everyone regardless of age, gender and geography against all strains of influenza, making significant strides toward preventing a global catastrophe.
“While great progress has been made in understanding the influenza virus, seasonal vaccines are not consistently effective and people remain highly vulnerable,” said Wayne C. Koff, PhD, President and CEO of the Human Vaccines Project. “There are many public and private sector resources dedicated to developing new and improved influenza vaccines, but they are all primarily focused on one part of the problem – making the vaccine. What makes the UIVI distinct is that we are focusing on understanding the second part of the puzzle – the human immune response. We have to find out what generates an effective immune response against influenza in all populations in order for a vaccine to be maximally effective.”
Researchers based at the Project’s scientific hubs at the University of California San Diego, The Scripps Research Institute, the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology, and the J. Craig Venter Institute, and partners at the University of British Columbia and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, will conduct a broad spectrum analysis of blood and tissue samples from vaccinated and infected individuals, coupled with artificial intelligence driven computer simulation models, to decipher the elements of protection against influenza and determine why some people are protected while others are not.
The Project’s influenza vaccine initiative will launch a series of influenza vaccine clinical trials in globally diverse populations beginning early in 2018.