Rational Design of a Universal Flu Vaccine Using Recombinant Neuraminidase
Alice McHardy of the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research in Germany will use a computational approach to engineer a more stable, neuraminidase (NA)-like antigen for use in influenza vaccines to increase both the duration and the breadth of protection against multiple influenza strains. Seasonal influenza viruses are constantly mutating, and current vaccines designed to target the variable, but strongly immunogenic, surface antigen, hemagglutinin (HA), must be frequently replaced. Vaccines designed to target another immunogenic antigen, neuraminidase (NA), fail to elicit a strong immune response likely due to the instability of the NA protein during the manufacturing process. They will combine genetic, structural, and evolutionary data to design an NA-like antigen with epitopes conserved across at least two influenza subtypes to provide protection against a broader range of influenza strains. The protein will be optimized for stability and immunogenicity, and then tested in mouse and ferret influenza infection models. The antigen will be co-formulated with c-di-AMP (known to improve responsiveness to vaccines in vulnerable populations including infants and the elderly) as the adjuvant. The expected result of this project is an antigen that provides increased duration and breadth of immune protection against multiple strains of influenza.