A team of researchers from the University of Groningen is going to head a major European project to develop new flu vaccines. The project will concentrate on developing vaccines that can offer broad protection against the flu virus.
The Groningen research team is headed by Prof. H.W. Frijlink (research leader), Prof. A.L.W. Huckriede and Prof. E. Hak. The project, entitled Universal Influenza Vaccine Secured, will be implemented by a consortium of twelve partners from seven European countries: four businesses, five national health institutes and three universities.
Because the flu virus is constantly mutating (changes occur to the genome), annual vaccination campaigns need to be held in order to achieve adequate protection against it. Reserves of the vaccine to be used in the event of a pandemic (for example Mexican or Spanish flu) cannot be built up either. After all, you never know which variant of the virus will cause the pandemic.
The new project will investigate and develop new types of vaccine that will protect against all variants of the flu virus. This will remove the necessity to be vaccinated every year and reserves can be built up to be used in the event of a pandemic.
In addition to a promising variant of the current vaccine that can be administered in powder form via inhalation and thus offers wider protection, the project will also investigate two peptide vaccines, a DNA vaccine and a vaccine that concentrates on the M2 protein. Specific new tests will be developed for all these vaccines, with a high predictive value for the protection that the vaccine offers to humans. Studies on humans will be conducted to compare the various vaccines with each other.
The University of Groningen has developed a basic technology that can stabilize powder vaccines. This means that the current flu vaccine can be stored for ten years at room temperature without deteriorating; normal vaccine can only be stored for a year in a fridge. Applying this technology to the new vaccines will also be investigated, so that reserves can be built up for a possible pandemic.
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