Duke Tapped to Lead Search for Universal Flu Vaccine

Thursday, April 30, 2020

As part of a massive national effort to improve and modernize flu shots, the Duke Human Vaccine Institute (DHVI) received three research contracts from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), with an initial award of approximately $29.6 million in first-year funding. 

The contracts are part of an ambitious initiative under NIAID aimed at developing a longer-lasting, more broadly protective vaccine to replace the seasonal flu shot. Current flu vaccines do not protect against all varieties of the virus and require new formulations each year.

A more universally protective vaccine could cut the toll of influenza, which kills 300,000 to 500,000 people worldwide each year and causes up to 5 million cases of severe infection.

Duke is the only institution to receive a contract in each of the three CIVICs components, including work to design and evaluate influenza vaccine approaches, manufacture and evaluate the safety and toxicity of vaccine platforms, and conduct clinical trials for influenza vaccines.

The vaccine development component will be led by M. Anthony Moody, BS’89, MD’99, HS’03, associate professor in the departments of pediatrics and immunology at Duke University School of Medicine. Duke is one of three academic centers awarded the CIVICs vaccine development contracts. The DHVI team will conduct basic immunology and virology research to identify potential vaccine candidates.

The second contract is for vaccine manufacturing and will be led by Matthew R. Johnson, PhD, senior director of product development at DHVI. Johnson oversees a facility within DHVI that meets Good Manufacturing Practice standards for the production of vaccine products used in proof-of-concept Phase I clinical trials.

The third contract for DHVI provides funding for clinical trials that test the vaccine candidates developed through the CIVICs program. Duke is one of two centers receiving contracts to run clinical trials. The principal investigator for the clinical trials contract is Emmanuel “Chip” Walter, MD, HS’90, a professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Duke University School of Medicine and chief medical officer of DHVI. This phase will test promising vaccines in small groups of healthy adult participants.

Under the leadership of Director Barton Haynes, MD, DHVI has led HIV vaccine development since 2005. In addition to researching HIV and influenza, investigators at the DHVI conduct basic and translational research to develop vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics for tuberculosis, malaria, Ebola, cytomegalovirus and the zika flavivirus. They are currently working to develop both an antibody countermeasure and vaccine to combat COVID-19.