An international team of scientists have designed a new generation of universal flu vaccines to protect against future global pandemics that could kill millions. The collaboration involving the universities of Lancaster, Aston and Complutense in Madrid have applied ground breaking computational techniques to design the vaccine.
The researchers devised two universal vaccines. One can protect against up to 88 per cent of known flu strains worldwide in a single shot, spelling the end of the winter flu season. Another vaccine covers 95 per cent of known US influenza strains, they said.
“Based on our knowledge of the flu virus and the human immune system, we can use computers to design the components of a vaccine that gives much broader and longer-lasting protection,” said Derek Gatherer of Lancaster University in the UK.
“The components of this vaccine would be short flu virus fragments called epitopes that are already known to be recognized by the immune system. Our collaboration has found a way to select epitopes reaching full population coverage,” said Pedro Reche of Complutense University in Spain.
“Epitope-based vaccines aren’t new, but most reports have no experimental validation. We have turned the problem on its head and only use previously-tested epitopes,” said Darren Flower of Aston University in the UK.
The team is now seeking partners in the pharmaceutical industry to synthesize their vaccine. The study was published in the journal Bioinformatics.