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Universal Vaccine

Vaccines and Correlates of Protection

Novel Antigen-Adjuvant Vechicle as an Effective Influenza Vaccine

EC contribution
: € 1 154 717
: 24 months
Starting date
: 01/06/2005
: SMEs - Cooperative Research Projects
: Antigen-adjuvant vehicle, universal influenza vaccine, mucosal immunity
Project Number
: COOP-CT-2005-017749


One of the biggest challenges concerning influenza vaccination is trying to keep up with the virus's mutational variation. The currently approved vaccines work by stimulating the body's immunity against the haemagglutinin and neuraminidase proteins on the virus's surface. As these proteins are prone to mutation, vaccines only induce immunity against specific subtypes of the virus. However, the influenza virus has a third protein in its outer coat, M2, and the extracellular domain of this protein, M2e, has been remarkably conserved in the amino acid sequence since human influenza virus was first isolated in 1933. If this protein could stimulate an adequate immune response it might be possible to develop a broad-spectrum vaccine against all influenza A subtypes.

Previous research has shown that when the extracellular domain of M2 (M2e) is linked to appropriate carrier particles, such as the hepatitis B virus core, it becomes highly immunogenic, inducing antibodies that fully protect mice against a potentially lethal influenza infection. Swedish biotech company Biovitrum AB has teamed up with researchers at the Flanders Interuniversity Institute for Biotechnology in Ghent (BE), who initially worked on the M2 protein, European SMEs Pepscan (the Netherlands), Proxima (UK) and Gteborg University to develop what could become the first universal vaccine for influenza. It could provide lifelong immunity against the virus and thus provide far greater protection in the event of a pandemic. It may even help to eradicate the disease in humans.

The unique combination of the consortium for the rational design of a mucosal influenza vaccine is unprecedented in European vaccine research. If the universal vaccine proves successful in clinical trials it will not only help to diminish the social and economic costs of influenza, but also secure the growth and development of the European vaccine industry in the global market.

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