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Penn researchers develop universal mRNA vaccine against the flu


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: November 30th, 2022

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania (Penn) are developing an experimental mRNA-based vaccine against all known strains of the influenza virus.

The vaccine uses the same mRNA technology as the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines. In animal studies, the flu vaccine has been shown to dramatically reduce signs of illness and protect from death, even when the animals were exposed to strains different from those used in producing the vaccine.

According to the Penn research team, the vaccine could eventually serve as a universal protective measure against future flu pandemics.

“The idea here is to have a vaccine that will give people a baseline level of immune memory to diverse flu strains, so that there will be far less disease and death when the next flu pandemic occurs,” says co-developer and Penn professor Scott Hensley.

“It would be comparable to first-generation SARS-CoV-2 mRNA vaccines. Against later variants such as Omicron, these original vaccines did not fully block viral infections, but they continue to provide durable protection against severe disease and death,” Hensley adds. “For a conventional vaccine, immunizing against all these subtypes would be a major challenge, but with mRNA technology it’s relatively easy.”

The Penn researchers are currently designing human clinical trials of the vaccine.

Source: Penn Medicine News

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