Hope for mir­a­cle flu jab is noth­ing to sneeze at

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY LEE HARPIN

A LEAD­ING Univer­sity Col­lege Lon­don pro­fes­sor is con­fi­dent that his pi­o­neer­ing med­i­cal re­search could lead to the suc­cess­ful de­vel­op­ment of a vac­cine that will pro­tect against any type of flu.

Pro­fes­sor Wil­liam Rosen­berg be­lieves the use of “pro­tein scaf­fold” tech­nol­ogy — where the hu­man im­mune sys­tem is primed to fight off flu — pro­vides a blue­print for the cre­ation of a so-called univer­sal flu vac­cine.

The in­fluenza virus is a con­stantly chang­ing tar­get, mean­ing that the sea­sonal flu jabs cur­rently avail­able ei­ther be­come in­ef­fec­tive over time or miss the tar­get com­pletely and fail to stop the ill­ness.

World­wide an­nual in­fluenza in­fec­tions af­fect three to five mil­lion peo­ple an­nu­ally — with up to 500,000 deaths from the dis­ease oc­cur­ring each year.

A clin­i­cal doc­tor at the Royal Free Hospi­tal in Hamp­stead, where he leads the vi­ral hep­ati­tis ser­vice,

Prof Rosen­berg has made the de­vel­op­ment of new vac­cines his ma­jor re­search pro­ject.

He said: “I am con­fi­dent now that we can stop a mouse from dy­ing of flu — but what we need to do is move from stop­ping mice from dy­ing to mak­ing our vac­cine work for hu­mans.”

Prof Rosen­berg,

Prof Rosen­berg a mem­ber of Bel­size Square Sy­n­a­gogue, said the suc­ces­sion of failed sea­sonal vac­cines — over the past four years, at least two have failed — has made the man­u­fac­ture of a univer­sal jab all the more vi­tal. “The prob­lem with in­fluenza is that it is a master of dis­guise,” he ex­plained. “It can change its coat ev­ery sin­gle year cre­at­ing many dif­fer­ent strains. He re­vealed that early phase re­search has of­fered pos­i­tive signs that his ap­proach to the cre­ation of a univer­sal vac­cine might be the right one. Work­ing along­side a team of vac­cine de­vel­op­ment ex­perts, the pro­fes­sor is us­ing a pro­tein scaf­fold to build a par­ti­cle which car­ries the in­fluenza pro­teins. He said: “When we put that par­ti­cle into the pa­tient their im­mune sys­tem sees it as a virus, but the vac­cine it­self is much safer than a virus vac­cine be­cause it is just a ball of pro­tein.

“The im­mune sys­tem mounts a re­sponse to the flu pro­teins on the sur­face — and if the vac­ci­nated per­son then en­coun­ters a flu in­fec­tion, the im­mune sys­tem is primed to fight it off.” The hope is to en­ter a hu­man clin­i­cal trial of the vac­cine by the sum­mer of 2018. But fund­ing re­mains a crit­i­cal is­sue. Prof Rosen­berg es­ti­mates that it will cost around £3 mil­lion. “But we are talk­ing about a drug that will be worth bil­lions of pounds if it works,” he said.

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