A professor at Georgia State University’s Institute for Biomedical Sciences, Dr. Sang-Moo Kang, received a five-year, $2.7 million grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) last week for a study of seasonal and universal vaccination in elderly populations.
The study will look at those aged 65 years and older with pre-existing immunity to influenza viruses to better understand the impact of such immunity on the effectiveness of universal and seasonal vaccination and immunogenicity. Typically, older populations are at a significantly higher risk of developing serious flu-related complications or dying as a result of the flu.
Now, NIAID — one of the organizations comprising the National Institutes of Health (NIH) — wants to know if a new universal vaccine that spurs immunity against multiple influenza proteins will expand the range and efficacy of cross protection against different flu virus strains in populations both with or without pre-existing immunities. Kang’s study will put this to the test.
“The outcomes in this project will be highly significant in the aspect of translational science and relevance to improve the cross protective efficacy of flu vaccination,” Kang said.
Typically, flu vaccines are seasonal affairs, developed to counter the most concerning influenza strain predicted for that year. Based on a highly variable influenza protein known as hemagglutinin, they do not provide any effective cross protection against other types of flu viruses. Of concern is that they also provide particularly low efficacy in aged populations — even song those with pre-existing immunity to flu.
Developing a strategy that can improve cross protective efficacy remains a high priority for the agency.