Flu News Friday: The Latest in Influenza Vaccines
August 20, 2021
1. Seqirus Announces Investment in Next-Generation Influenza Vaccine Technology, Self-Amplifying Messenger RNA (sa-mRNA)
PRNewswire / August 19, 2021
This week, Sequris announced the creation of a program dedicated to the development of self-amplifying mRNA (sa-mRNA) vaccines. sa-mRNA vaccine technology includes genetic instructions to not only produce viral protein, but to also produce a polymerase to further replicate the protein many times over. This type of mRNA platform could enable development of effective vaccines with smaller doses but greater scalability, as the platform might not require as many raw materials.
Amy Maxmen, Nature / August 13, 2021
Researchers caution that preparedness plans for the next pandemic do not reflect the lessons learned drawn from the current pandemic situation and what led to it. Future pandemics are inevitable according to experts, and the current pandemic has shown that key preparedness efforts including basic surveillance need improvement and increased scale, in both humans and animals. The lack of complete raw data and its open sharing, combined with unsustained funding, hinders a rapid and confident assessment of the full picture of SARS-CoV-2 transmission. Conflicting messaging and misinformation eroded trust and recognition of social distancing recommendations. With disparities in disease transmission and the inequitable rollout of vaccines to those who need them, experts say future pandemic preparedness plans should incorporate measures to “correct inequities during a health emergency.” In all, COVID taught scientists that the world is “stuck on the same strategies” and needs to develop new ones that include coordination and diplomacy among nations.
3. Influenza vaccination hesitancy in large urban centers in South America. Qualitative analysis of confidence, complacency and convenience across risk groups
González-Block et al., PLOS One / August 12, 2021
Scientists examined the determinants of hesitancy of flu vaccination in urban populations of Uruguay, Chile, Paraguay, Brazil, and Peru. The study focused on four risk groups, adults over 60 years, adults with risk factors, pregnant women and mothers with children under 6 years old. The study points to vaccine confidence as the most important factor influencing vaccine hesitancy, through nuanced perceptions of trust or mistrust of the health system and of the effectiveness and safety of the vaccine. Vaccine confidence among the five countries was congruent with rates of vaccine uptake among them, “where Brazil and Chile have considerably higher uptake for all risk groups as against Paraguay and Uruguay, and also to a lesser extent in comparison to Peru.” The authors conclude the findings should motivate country-specific efforts to improve and tailor communication strategies for risk groups to improve vaccine uptake overall, particularly as “Influenza and COVID-19 vaccination strategies may converge in the future.”
Homeland Preparedness News / August 9, 2021
BARDA’s Division of Research Innovation and Ventures (DRIVe), through its Beyond the Needle (BtN) program, is partnering with US Biologic to develop an oral influenza vaccine for humans. BtN is working to develop alternative technologies to “transform” current paradigms and make vaccines and therapeutics more easily administered and available to those who need it, “without the need for needles, syringes, vials, and cold-chain distribution burdens.” US Biologic’s oral vaccine delivery platform has shown safety and efficacy in preclinical animal models, and BARDA’s role is to support the initiation of phase I clinical trials for the oral influenza vaccine.
Abreu et al., PLOS One / August 5, 2021
Scientists compared changes in the antibody response to seasonal flu vaccination in young (16–34) and older (65+) individuals over three consecutive years: 2014 to 2015, 2015 to 2016, and 2016 to 2017. For participants 18 and older, vaccination elicited vaccine-specific neutralizing antibodies (NAb) and back-boosted cross-reactive NAbs to historical influenza strains from the past 30 years. However, elderly participants had an “impaired” recall response, nodding to the limitations of current seasonal flu vaccines for high-risk populations. The study concluded “this and other reports seem to point towards a common trend…young vaccinees seem to develop and adapt their repertoire to newly drifted strains, while elderly vaccinees, recall pre-existing non-neutralizing antibodies.”
Isakova-Sivak, Expert Review of Vaccines / August 4, 2021
Traditional seasonal flu vaccines primarily induce neutralizing antibodies against immunodominant, hypervariable domains of the virus, including the hemagglutinin (HA) surface protein, leading to annual reformulation. Scientists review literature on the development of broadly cross-protective and universal influenza vaccines. In an effort to increase vaccine breadth and durability, scientific efforts are increasingly focused on developing vaccines that elicit T cell responses or redirected humoral responses to conserved epitopes. The article also emphasizes the need to develop correlates of protection for novel vaccine platforms and incorporate adequate animal models.
7. Development of PDA Nanoparticles for H9N2 Avian Influenza BPP-V/BP-IV Epitope Peptide Vaccines: Immunogenicity and Delivery Efficiency Improvement
Liu et al., Frontiers in Immunology / July 27, 2021
Scientists designed an inactivated influenza vaccine utilizing polydopamine (PDA) nanoparticles conjugated to H9N2 avian influenza epitope peptides. PDA is a biomaterial widely used in other medical applications, including cancer therapy and tissue repair. The study results demonstrated that PDA as a vaccine delivery “nanocarrier” has the potential to improve and sustain vaccine-induced immune responses, inducing both the humoral and cell-mediated arms of the immune system.
8. Comparison of the Immunogenicity of Cell Culture-Based and Recombinant Quadrivalent Influenza Vaccines to Conventional Egg-Based Quadrivalent Influenza Vaccines among Healthcare Personnel Aged 18–64 Years: A Randomized Open-Label Trial
Dawood et al., Clinical Infectious Diseases / July 10, 2021
In a randomized trial, scientists studied the humoral immune responses to cell-based and recombinant quadrivalent influenza vaccines (QIVs) and compared them to responses to egg-based QIVs among over 700 healthcare workers 18 to 64 years old. Each QIV included the same reference viruses within the A/H1N1 and A/H3N2 subtypes and the B/Yamagata and B/Victoria types.
9. Funding Opportunities & Information
UK Research & Innovation / Opened July 1, 2021 / Closes September 2, 2021
UK Research & Innovation / Opened August 2, 2021 / Closes September 22, 2021
Medical Research Council, UK Research & Innovation / Opens August 27, 2021 / Closes November 18, 2021
Maximizing Opportunities for Scientific and Academic Independent Careers (MOSAIC) Postdoctoral Career Transition Award to Promote Diversity (Independent Clinical Trial Required)
National Institutes of Health / Opens September 27, 2021 / Due October 27, 2021