Quest for Universal Flu Vaccine Boosted by $200M NIH Grant to University of Maryland

Quest for Universal Flu Vaccine Boosted by $200M NIH Grant to University of Maryland

Story Highlights

  • National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded the University of Maryland a contract for more than $200 million to develop a universal influenza vaccine.
  • Currently, the influenza vaccine used around the world is developed every year by drug companies based on the “best guesses” made by public health officials at the World Health Organization (WHO) and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), who predict which type A and B influenza strains will be prevalent in the upcoming flu season and should be included in flu vaccines.
  • Grant money awarded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious (NIAID), as well as grant money from The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in collaboration with Flu Lab and others, will be used to develop a “universal” flu vaccine that will cover a broad range of influenza strains and can be given at any time during the year.

The annual influenza vaccine that includes certain type A and B influenza strains is a constantly moving target, with public health officials at the World Health Organization (WHO) and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) relying on educated guessing to predict which influenza strains will prevail globally in any given year so drug companies manufacturing flu vaccines can include the selected influenza vaccines in seasonal flu shots. The problem for vaccine manufacturers is that the predictions by public health officials too often prove to be wrong and these miscalculations have consistently resulted in influenza vaccines with rates of effectiveness less than 50 percent and sometimes as low as 10 percent.1 2

The influenza vaccine has seldom lived up to expectations and public confidence in the vaccine has not been particularly high. It is within this environment that the quest for a more effective “universal” influenza vaccine has become a major priority of public health officials and the vaccine industry.

The quest for a universal influenza vaccine recently received a big boost with a federal government grant of more than $200 million awarded to the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious (NIAID). The vaccine development research contract, which is being given for the express purpose of developing a universal flu vaccine, will be distributed annually over the next seven years under the direction of Kathleen Neuzil, MD, MPH, who is professor of Medicine and Pediatrics and director of the Center of Vaccine Development and Global Health (CVD) at the University of Maryland.3

Beginning with an initial payment of $2.5 million to evaluate seasonal vaccines currently in development, the CVD’s Collaborative Influenza Vaccine Innovation Center (CIVIC) program also expects to conduct clinical and challenge studies in adults and specific groups including children, pregnant women and the elderly.

Dr. Neuzil said, “There are already vaccines in the pipeline that have been developed and are ready for human testing… If we had to start from scratch in developing vaccines, it would take much longer.” She said that her research group will look at vaccine candidates with novel approaches to preventing all influenza infections, rather than the current strategy of targeting different strains of the influenza virus each year. One new tactic is to change the source of the pathogen used in the vaccine, away from the current practice of using surface proteins of the constantly mutating influenza virus, to just targeting the part of the protein that stays the same.4

Dr. Neuzil is a widely recognized researcher and advocate for the vaccine industry, holding prominent roles in helping to determine public vaccine policies, both domestically and internationally. She is a member of the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) and the only U.S. member of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE). Under her leadership, the CVD is also active in research into finding vaccines malaria, anthrax, Dengue, Ebola virus, meningitis, and Hantaan virus.5

NIAID is Not the Only Influenza Vaccine Benefactor

Other influential groups are also pushing for greater funding for research into developing a universal influenza vaccine. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, together with the philanthropy group Flu Lab, initially proposed a series of grants that were to be rolled out in August of 2018 and were expected to produce a universal flu vaccine ready for testing in humans by 2021.6

The Gates Foundation submitted proposals, which led them to realize that the “field of influenza vaccinology simply isn’t that close to being able to design a flu vaccine that would protect broadly against the strains of flu that infect people every winter and those in nature that could emerge to trigger a disruptive and deadly pandemic.” The grants were changed to focus on more basic research needed to create a knowledge base that would make the development of a universal flu vaccine more feasible.6

Two “Camps” in Universal Influenza Vaccine Research

There are two very different vaccine development approaches grouped under the universal flu vaccine umbrella. The first is focused on broadening the coverage of the annual influenza vaccine, but does not seek to provide coverage against all influenza  strains. The second type of research seeks to develop a vaccine to cover the “multitude of strains that exist in nature, one which would not need to be frequently updated as the flu viruses mutated.”7

Similar to the plans of Dr. Neuzil’s group at the University of Maryland, one of the grantees supported by the Gates initiative will focus on a different target on the influenza virus. Calling their project “MONSTIR” (MOsaic Natural Selective Targeting of Immune Responses), researcher Patrick Wilson, PhD, professor of medicine and rheumatology at the University of Chicago, aims to create a universal flu vaccine from “a combination, or mosaic, of proteins from different segments of multiple virus strains.” Dr. Wilson likens their approach to “building a Frankenstein’s monster of flu proteins, and thus the MONSTIR acronym.”8

Recognizing that influenza viruses mutate constantly, Wilson’s group intends to start with influenza strains that bind antibodies at sites on the virus that are less likely to mutate.

Why is a Universal Flu Vaccine So Elusive?

Part of the reason the quest for a universal influenza vaccine has been slow, particularly compared to the development of other vaccines like those for the Zika and Ebola viruses, may have to do with economics, as suggested by reporter Maryn McKenna.

McKenna noted in 2017 that, “The current, imperfect flu vaccine brings in more than $3 billion per year worldwide.”9 Quoting Michael Osterholm, founder of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, she added:

The real challenge is that there is already an established, and very mature, private-sector enterprise producing flu vaccine that has in place a system of annual delivery that guarantees a certain amount of money… How are you going to change that? Who is going to pay for that, given that the cost of research and development may mean the vaccine will be substantially more expensive than what we already have? What company will embrace that?9

One answer to that question may lie in a statement made by U.S. Senator Christopher Van Hollen (D-Maryland), who introduced a bill in February 2019 to dedicate $1 billion over five years to influenza vaccine research. Quoting CDC generated data that estimates annual costs of influenza in the U.S. at $10.4 billion in direct medical expenses and $87 billion in economic losses, Sen. Van Hollen pointed out that a universal flu vaccine that might need to be repeated only once every five or 10 years and covers many varieties of influenza would mean that, “Every healthcare encounter would be an opportunity to provide that vaccine, not just every fall.”10


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8 Responses to "Quest for Universal Flu Vaccine Boosted by $200M NIH Grant to University of Maryland"

  1. Redpill   October 10, 2019 at 8:57 am

    How many years have so call researchers been working on a Universal Flu Vaccine? Where is the common sense in all of this? The Flu shot has NEVER been effective in preventing the Flu and before pharma changed their vaccine vial inserts it used to state that the Flu Shot DIDN’T prevent you from catching the Flu, it just shortened the duration of the illness if you did catch it. That’s been changed to this which is basically the same admission only much slicker:
    5.5 Limitations of Vaccine Effectiveness Vaccination with FLULAVAL QUADRIVALENT may not protect all susceptible individuals.

    Who are the “susceptible individuals” individual and how ae they identified before they are given the shot. If the individual gets the shot and becomes sick, which is common, the CDC doesn’t recognize what they have as the Flu because they had the shot so they call it Influenzas Like Illness:

    Efficacy of FLULAVAL QUADRIVALENT was assessed for the prevention of reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR)-positive influenza A and/or B disease presenting as influenza-like illness (ILI). ILI was defined as a temperature 100F in the presence of at least one of the following symptoms on the same day: cough, sore throat, runny nose, or nasal congestion. Subjects with ILI (monitored by passive and active surveillance for approximately 6 months) had nasal and throat swabs collected and tested for influenza A and/or B by RT-PCR. All RT-PCR-positive specimens were further tested in cell culture. Vaccine efficacy was calculated based on the ATP cohort for efficacy (Table 6).

    Cochrane Collaboration:
    The authors found that flu vaccines probably reduced influenza’s in healthy adults from 2.3% without vaccination to 0.9% with.
    That means that the difference between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated is 1.4% or 0.014. Therefore, 71 people would need to be treated with the flu vaccine to prevent one case (1/1.4%). *In other words, the flu vaccine did nothing for 70 out of 71 who received it. That means this study found the flu vaccine failed 99% (71/72).* https://www.cochrane.org/CD001269/ARI_vaccines-prevent-influenza-healthy-adults

    (Cochrane Collaboration is no longer an Independent research group. It has been brought by the Gates Foundation and it’s founding members removed or they resigned in protest because of big pharma influence in their research. The original founding members of the Cochrane Collaboration have formed a new independent research group

    “multitude of strains that exist in nature”
    Seriously? There are over 200 documented flu strain at the CDC and they still can’t get it right. People are being harmed with 1-4 strains in a vaccine and they want a multitude of strains. Talk about JUNK SCIENCE. Flu Shot is the most compensated vaccine by the NVICP.

    https://vaccineimpact.com/vaccine-injuries-and-deaths-compensated-through-vaccine-court/

    Reply
  2. David L   October 10, 2019 at 7:47 pm

    Why the flu vaccine is ineffective – The flu vaccine is effective for preventing influenza if it is matched to the circulating strain. But researchers at The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR) in Rockville, Md., tracked the evolution of more garden-variety flu strains for five years in New York State, discovering that the virus can re-assort or mutate even during the same flu season. The researchers found at least three distinct subpopulations of the flu virus over the five years, and in some cases, they were circulating at the same time. The variants were even able to swap genetic materials so its constantly changing and can therefore create a mismatch to whats contained in the vaccine. https://www.medpagetoday.org/infectiousdisease/uritheflu/1877?vpass=1
    Even that does not tell the whole story, because vaccination increases the risk for non influenza illnesses and it can increase susceptibility to and severity of non matched strains since vaccination, unlike a natural infection does not produce NA antibody protection which naturally provide robust and broad protection against divergent influenza strains. These NA-reactive antibodies the body produces from natural infection display broad binding activity spanning the entire history of influenza A virus circulation in humans. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29625056
    http://vaccinepapers.org/influenza-vaccine-immune-suppression/
    https://medicalxpress.com/news/2013-08-vaccination-flu-worse-exposed-strain.html

    Reply
  3. Jon   October 11, 2019 at 7:44 pm

    A Frankenstein vaccine…oh boy. Bram Stoker’s skull is rattling in his grave!

    Reply
  4. D. Smith   October 11, 2019 at 7:57 pm

    In my personal unprofessional opinion, all the flu vaccine does is give the flu itself legs. EVERYONE gets the flu, in fact everyone SHOULD get the flu from time to time. It’s the body’s way of cleaning house and there’s usually a reason which human beings will never fully understand.

    It’s also my opinion that everyone has a different opinion on what the “flu” really consists of, in terms of symptoms, duration, etc. On that wide issue, few people will ever fully agree. No wonder there are 2 sides, both fighting relentlessly about something no one fully understands.

    Reply
  5. $$$$$$$$   October 11, 2019 at 8:19 pm

    A few are making lots of $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$, do you think they care if it works or not and if it makes many more ill? No liabilty and lots of money to be made. Disgusting industry, jusg poisonous!!!

    Reply
  6. Joy Metcalf   October 11, 2019 at 9:45 pm

    Like the difference between a couch potato and an energetic, physically active person, the body responds best to challenges. Certainly the couch potato is “protected” against muscular strains (or is he?), but put in a stressful situation, which one is stronger? When will these so-called researchers understand that a strong immune system requires, not protection, but challenges?

    Reply
  7. Michael   October 11, 2019 at 10:27 pm

    I’m fairly intimidated by the quality and obvious depth of the commenters on this forum.

    I just want to ask – if this or other vaccines didn’t pay so much, would there be any heroes who dedicated their lives to creating and distributing this vaccine?

    I mean we have people who do that for trees, for animals, for farms, etc.

    I realize there might be a J. Salk who selflessly devoted his life to creating a cure but really, if there wasn’t any money in it, would we have vaccines?

    And don’t mistake me for an anti-vaxxer – I know there are many places in the world that have poor nutrition, poor sanitation, and runaway disease and need vaccines to cure that problem – but that not what’s driving flu vaccines.

    Reply
    • Redpill   October 13, 2019 at 8:47 am

      I realize there might be a J. Salk who selflessly devoted his life to creating a cure but really,

      Salk’s Polio vaccine didn’t stop/cure Polio. In fact if you read this site you get some unbiased historical perspective on the vaccine. https://explorevaccines.wordpress.com/category/polio-ipvopv/
      Also read the many article here: POLIO AND THE POLIO VACCINE RACKET1: http://www.whale.to/v/polio2.htm.

      Jonas Salk was no hero. He experimented on mentally ill patients, those who could not consent because they lacked reasoning, many times. The vaccine was responsible for killing many and causing outbreaks of Polio.

      Interesting read:
      Extracts from Edward Shorter’s The Health Century about Dr. Bernice E. Eddy, whose lab tests found that the Cutter vaccine had been improperly inactivated and contained a cancer causing monkey virus–SV40. http://www.whale.to/v/eddy.html

      Salk & Salk vaccines: http://www.whale.to/vaccine/salk.html

      People need to stop believing that the Polio vaccine cured or stopped Polio when all that happened was the CDC originally named Public Health Service, changed the diagnostic criteria in 1958 that eliminated 90% of what was being diagnosed as Polio.

      In 1958, the CDC formally adopted the “Best available paralytic poliomyelitis case count” or BAPPCC.

      “Cases must be clinically and epidemiologically compatible with poliomyelitis, must have resulted in paralysis, and must have a residual neurological deficit 60 days after onset of initial symptoms. .. the BAPPCC does not include cases of nonparalytic poliomyelitis, of those in which paralysis is more transient. The original purpose of developing these criteria was to omit cases possibly due to enteroviruses other than polioviruses.”

      The definition changes were so radical, that many doctors publicly stated in medical journals, that it effectively eliminated 90% of what had previous been accepted as paralytic polio.

      Also, the CDC gave Polio multiple names to hide it:
      Acute Flaccid Paralysis (AFP), Transverse Myelitis, Viral or Aseptic Meningitis, Guillain-Barre syndrome, Chinese Paralytic Syndrome, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Spinal Meningitis, Post Polio Syndrome and EV-68. Clinically indistinguishable from the list of symptoms that cause polio.
      All of these are caused by Enteroviruses that migrated to the spinal fluid and affected the brain. This is why the Medical cartel call these illness Polio-Like. When people say well Polio must be gone because there are no more Iron Lungs. I just point out to people Iron Lungs have been replaced with oxygen tents and respirators. It’s call technology.

      Reply

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