Awarded Project: "NIAID Centers of Excellence for Influenza Research and Surveillance"

NIAID Centers of Excellence for Influenza Research and Surveillance

Dr. Christopher J. Miller, in conjunction with the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, received a two year contract from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, NIH.  Seasonal influenza A virus (IAV) infections kill up to 49,000 people in the United States each year. Pandemics can kill many more people, and considerable scientific effort is directed to addressing pandemics prophylactically because responses after a pandemic are too late.  Vaccination is the most effective prophylactic strategy available to reduce the impact of influenza.  However, current seasonal influenza vaccines are not consistently effective, vaccine effectiveness over the past 14 years has ranged from 10 to 56% with a mean of 40%. This poor performance is very concerning for at risk populations with even lower vaccine efficacy and that most require protection.  A number of variables including differences in outcome measures, evolving viral phenotypes, host factors, and differences in how protection is defined confound interpretation of results and contribute to the variation seen in studies of influenza vaccine efficacy.  The variability in influenza vaccine efficacy also indicates that more work is needed to understand the correlates of protection in seasonal influenza infection and reexamine the criteria for vaccine licensure.   Recognizing the need for improved influenza vaccines, NIAID has made development of universal influenza vaccine (UIV) a priority, with improved seasonal influenza A vaccines a key step to a UIV. The primary objective is to test an mRNA-based influenza vaccine designed to elicit antibodies to NA, M2e and NP against challenge with a heterosubtypic virus in rhesus macaques.    

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