New, more effective strategy for producing flu vaccines

By Kelly April Tyrrell, UW-Madison

warf-patent-kawaokaA team of researchers led by Yoshihiro Kawaoka, professor of pathobiological sciences at the University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Veterinary Medicine, has developed technology that could improve the production of vaccines that protect people from influenza B.

That technology is an influenza B vaccine virus “backbone” that would allow producers to grow vaccine viruses at high yield in mammalian cell culture rather than in eggs. Using the backbone as a template to add vaccine-virus-specific components, it would offer protection against both lineages of influenza B that circulate in the human population.

“We want to provide a system that produces influenza vaccines that are more efficacious,” says Kawaoka. “It is better to produce influenza viruses for vaccine production in cells instead of eggs, but the problem is that influenza virus does not grow well in cell culture compared with embryonated eggs.”

The new technology may overcome that challenge. The team published its results Monday, Dec. 5, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Each year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization, decides which strains of influenza virus to include in the seasonal flu vaccine. It typically includes two influenza A strains and two influenza B strains. Read more …

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