A new vaccine against bird flu being developed by an Australian company is a step closer today with the announcement that CDC Atlanta will conduct pre-clinical trials on a candidate vaccine developed by Melbourne biotechnology company BioDiem and Dutch company Akzo Nobel’s Nobilon.
The flu virus changes every season. So today’s flu vaccines are grown in chicken eggs each year using a killed version of the current influenza virus doing the rounds. It’s a slow process – too slow if a pandemic bird flu emerges.
If it passes the trials, BioDiem’s vaccine will have several advantages.
It is a live vaccine and their seasonal flu vaccine based on the same technology has been shown to give broader protection against influenza virus variants in comparison with an inactivated flu vaccine. So while an inactivated pandemic flu vaccine would have to be remade to be effective each time the flu virus genetically changes, BioDiem’s flu vaccine would be expected to still provide meaningful protection.
The new vaccine can be grown in cell culture, so it can be mass produced faster. The current vaccine is made in eggs – a time consuming process taking at least three to four months – and the world capacity for vaccine production in eggs is limited, particularly if the chickens are infected.
It will require just one dose and will give coverage within a day of administration. The inactive vaccines in development require two shots three weeks apart and then take two weeks to give protection.
The new vaccine would also be administered as a nasal spray, allowing fast distribution and no needles.
The US CDC at Atlanta is amongst the world’s foremost authorities in emerging disease threats so it’s exciting that they have agreed to run the pre-clinical trials.